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Personalised, interactive, and motivational approaches dominate in this study of the effectiveness of single-session brief interventions for heavy-drinking college students. But, overall the effects of brief interventions remain modest in clinical terms.
Amalgamated findings from studies of risky drinkers identified and counselled in primary care settings indicate that compared to screening and assessment only, brief counselling lead to greater reductions in drinking, gains reflected less strongly in some indicators of health. However, it is unclear whether the generally small impacts would be sustained in routine practice.
REVIEW 2015 HTM file
Prevention of addictive behaviours
Based largely on existing reviews, this report for the German Federal Centre for Health Education comprehensively assesses substance use prevention approaches. Among its many conclusions are that approaches based solely on information provision are ineffective, in contrast to the more positive evidence for lifeskills and multi-component community programmes.
‘Social norm’ interventions which aim to reduce consumption by telling heavy drinkers how their drinking compares to their peer-group norm have a patchy record, but this British study suggests for students they might be improved by ranking against peers (eg, ‘You drink more than 80% of students’) rather than comparing how many units of alcohol they consume.
A rare ‘real world’ trial of whether a routine and feasible brief alcohol intervention can have population-wide public health benefits found that among university students in Sweden, web-based screening had very minor impacts which were not enhanced by feeding back the results.
Findings from this multi-university study in New Zealand seem an example of trials of brief alcohol interventions as they would be implemented in routine practice failing to match more promising findings from trials conducted in less ‘real world’ circumstances.
Synthesis of randomised trials of one of the most widely implemented and studied approaches to heavy-drinking among college students finds it does reduce both drinking and related problems, but compared to what is unclear, and none of the individual trials was convincing.
DOCUMENT 2012 HTM file
Practice standards for young people with substance misuse problems
Practice standards developed by the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists on working with young people aged 18 or under with substance misuse problems, intended (if followed) to promote high quality screening, assessment and treatment for these young people.
Is being caught and disciplined all it takes to get heavy drinkers who violate university drinking rules to cut back? According to this US study, the discipline process does work, but adding brief motivational-style advice makes a worthwhile extra impact.
Can college health clinics do widespread screening and brief alcohol advice? Yes they can, is one conclusion of this first large-scale test conducted at five North American universities. The other main conclusion – that by doing so they make worthwhile reductions in drinking and related harm – is weakened by the small size of the impacts.
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