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Brief Intervention

Graphic of 4 step screening and assessment process

Step 1: Ask: quantity and frequency, binge, CAGE, and AUDIT

Step 2: Assess: Academic, Social, Behavioral, and Medical

Step 3: Advise Appropriate Action: Iterative process of Brief Intervention, Motivational Interview, and Referral

Step 3: Follow-Up Supportive Care: Iterative process of Brief Intervention, Motivational Interview, and Referral

Public Health Paradigm

The primary goal of brief intervention is to:

  • Reduce alcohol use to low-risk levels
  • Encourage abstinence in persons who are alcohol-dependent

Brief Intervention or Brief Talk Therapy

  • Commonly used by clinicians to talk to patients about health issues or medication compliance
  • Not unique to the alcohol field
  • Designed for use in busy clinical settings
  • Generally 5-10 minute duration
  • Includes motivational interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques
  • More clinician-centered than client-centered therapy
  • Clinician shares concerns with student and tries to convince student to decrease alcohol use
  • Uses an empathic, non-confrontational style
  • Offers patient choices
  • Emphasizes patient responsibility
  • Conveys confidence in patient's ability to change
  • Conduct an assessment:
  • “Tell me about your drinking.” “What do you think about your drinking?”
  • Provide direct clear feedback:
  • "As your doctor/therapist, I am concerned about how much you drink and how it is affecting your health."
  • Establish a treatment contract through negotiation and goal setting:
  • “You need to reduce your drinking. What do you think about cutting down to three drinks 2-3 times per week?”
  • Apply behavioral modification techniques:
  • “Here is a list of situations when students drink and sometimes lose control of their drinking.”
  • Ask patients to review a self-help booklet and complete diary cards:
  • “I would like you to review this booklet and bring it with you at your next visit. I’d also like you to write down how much you drink on these diary cards.”
  • Set up a continuing care plan for nurse reinforcement phone calls and clinic visits.

Brief Intervention Studies in College Students

Source: Marlatt et. al. 1998

  • 348 heavy drinking college freshmen recruited at the University of Washington
  • Recruitment occurred via self-report questionnaire completed by incoming students
  • Intervention delivered by research staff
  • No involvement of primary care clinicians
  • Follow up at 6, 12 and 24 months
  • Intervention consisted of
    • self-monitoring
    • personalized feedback at year 1
    • mail feedback at year 2
  • Experimental group drank significantly less and had fewer self-reported consequences than the control group

Brief Intervention Trials Conducted in Young Adults

Monte et. al. 1999

  • 94 persons age 18 -19 recruited from hospital emergency departments based on an alcohol-related accident
  • Subjects randomized to brief motivational interview or standard care
  • Intervention consisted of a 30-60 minute motivational interviewing session with a counselor
  • Outcome - subjects randomized to the intervention group had fewer negative consequences, reduced drunk driving arrests, and fewer traffic violations

Project TrEAT Fleming, 2002

Trial of Early Alcohol Treatment

  • 64 physicians, 17 sites
  • 17,695 screened
  • 1,705 assessed
  • 774 enrolled (n=225 persons 18-30 years old)
    • 392 experimental
    • 382 control
  • Follow-up:
    • 12 months 723 (93.4%)
    • 48 months 643 (83.1%)

Percent Drinking Excessively in Past Week

Excessive is more than 13 drinks for a woman and more than 20 for a man.

Line chart with two items.
Item 1: The Experimental Group showed a decrease, over the 48 months, in weekly excessive drinking from approximatley 50 percent to approximately 20 percent.
Item 2: The Control Group showed a decrease, over the 48 months, in weekly excessive drinking from approximatley 50 percent to approximately 25 percent.

Mean Number of Drinks in Past 7 Days

Line chart with two items.
Item 1: The Experimental Group showed a decrease, over the 48 months, in the mean number of drinks consumed in the past 7 days from approximately 19 drinks to approximately 13 drinks.
Item 2: The Control Group showed a decrease, over the 48 months, in the mean number of drinks consumed in the past 7 days from approximately 19 drinks to approximately 14 drinks.

Number of Binge Drinking Episodes Past 30 days

Line chart with two items.
Item 1: The Experimental Group showed a fluctuation over 48 months, starting at approximately 5.5 moving to a low of 3 episodes then rising to just over 4 episodes in the past 30 days.
Item 2: The Control Group showed a fluctuation over 48 months, starting at approximately 5.5 moving to a low of 4 episodes then rising to a high of 6 then declining to approximately 5.5 episodes in the past 30 days.

Percent Doing Any Binge Drinking in Past Month

Binge drinking is defined as more than 4 drinks on single occasion for a woman or more than 5 drinks on single occasion for a man.

Line chart with two items
Item:1 The Experimental Group showed a decrease, over 48 months, from approximately 87 percent doing binge drinking in past month to approximatley 65 percent doing binge drinking in past month.
Item:2 The Control Group showed a decrease, over 48 months, from approximately 87 percent doing binge drinking in past month to approximatley 70 percent doing binge drinking in past month.

48-Month TrEAT Data: Benefit-Cost Analysis

Tabular data for Treatment(n=392) and Control(n=382) Groups

Medical Use: Emergency department visits, Treatment is 420, Control is 664 (Adjusted to equate patient-years).
Medical Use: Days of hospitalization, Treatment is 302, Control is 376 (Adjusted to equate patient-years).

Motor Vehicle Events: Crash with fatalities, Treatment is 0, Control is 2.
Motor Vehicle Events: Crash with non-fatal injuries, Treatment is 20, Control is 31.
Motor Vehicle Events: Crash with property damage only, Treatment is 67, Control is 72.
Motor Vehicle Events: Operating while intoxicated, Treatment is 25, Control is 25.
Motor Vehicle Events: Other moving violations, Treatment is 169, Control is 177.

Legal Events: Assault/battery/child abuse, Treatment is 8 , Control is 11.
Legal Events: Resist/obstruct officer/disorderly, Treatment is 8 , Control is 6.
Legal Events: Controlled substance/liquor violation, Treatment is 2 , Control is 11.
Legal Events: Criminal damage/property damage, Treatment is 2 , Control is 1.
Legal Events: Theft/robbery, Treatment is 3 , Control is 3.
Legal Events: Other arrests, Treatment is 5 , Control is 9.

48-Month TrEAT Data: Benefit-Cost Analysis Net Benefits & Benefit Cost Ratios (1993 dollars)

Perspective Cost per patient Benefits per patient Benefit-cost ratio (95% CI) Net Benefit (95% CI) P-value
Medical $166 $712 4.3 $546
(0.6, 8.0)
0.08
($-71, $1164)
Societal
(excl. life yrs)
$205 $7,985 39
(5.4, 72.5)
$7780
($894, $14,668)
0.01
Societal
(incl. life yrs)
$205 $11,659 96
(-33, 225)
$19,439
($-7165, $46,044)
0.17

What We Know

  • Brief Intervention can reduce alcohol use for at least 12 months
  • Effect size is similar for men and women
  • Effects are similar for persons over age 18
  • Reduction in utilization events
  • Cost savings
  • Improved health status

BI appears to reduce alcohol-related harm

  • Decreased GGT levels (Kristenson, 1983; Wallace, 1988; Israel, 1996)
  • Decreased sick days (Kristenson, 1983)
  • Decreased drinking and driving (Monti, 1999)
  • Decreased scores on questionnaires regarding alcohol-related problems (Marlatt, 1998)

 

Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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