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Just a few minutes with specially hired screening and intervention staff can make a difference to emergency patients' drinking, but in the real world the hospital's own staff will usually do this work. A US study tested this real-world scenario and still found (modest) drinking reductions.
This huge US study set out to test whether widespread screening and brief intervention for illegal drug use (not just heavy drinking) could be implemented in a variety of general medical settings and whether it was effective. Both tests seem to have been passed, but with some important caveats.
STUDY 2008 HTM file
Reducing alcohol harm: health services in England for alcohol misuse
Official audit of work by the Department of Health and NHS to address the health effects of alcohol misuse. Describes a system whose infrastructure is clearly inadequate compared to the size of the task, but one recently taking steps in the right direction.
In this comprehensive analysis, screening for risky drinking and brief advice was estimated to be among the most cost-effective preventive services GPs could offer, ranking alongside common interventions such as screening for high blood pressure or immunisation against influenza.
Having mandated universal screening for alcohol problems, the US health system for ex military personnel here thoughtfully addresses how to measure the degree to which this led to appropriate implementation of brief interventions.
OFFCUT 2004 PDF file 89Kb
Controversy over screening primary care patients for risky drinking
Just when a World Health Organisation project was seeking to persuade GPs to screen primary care patients for risky drinking, this hotly contested study concluded that universal screening was an ineffective use of health care resources.
STUDY 2003 PDF file 172Kb
Injury rate cut in heavy drinking accident and emergency patients
One of the few studies to have tried alcohol interventions in the emergency department rather than after admission was also the first to find a significant reduction in later injuries, but only if the initial approach had been reinforced with a booster.
SERIES OF ARTICLES 2002 PDF file 2075Kb
Investing in alcohol treatment
Two-part series extracted from an impressive Australian review. First, how to identify a drinking problem; second, whether brief talks with heavy drinkers identified by screening work, and how staff can be encouraged to implement them.
REVIEW 2002 PDF file 1279Kb
Investing in alcohol treatment: brief interventions
Second instalment of the comprehensive review funded by Australia's health department examines brief talks to heavy drinkers identified at hospitals or in primary care. Do they work, and how can staff be encouraged to implement them?
STUDY 1999 PDF file 209Kb
Advice and referral curb drinking in alcohol dependent hospital patients
In New York the serendipitous misapplication of a brief intervention to alcohol-dependent general hospital patients raised the possibility that they benefit as much from this as from referral to full-blown treatment.
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