Short one-on-one discussions about alcohol consumption in a doctor’s office may reduce patients’ drinking levels, according to a study.
Findings published in the Addiction journal indicated that brief interventions, described as conversations lasting under an hour and targeted to motivate changes in a patient’s risky drinking behavior, resulted in a reduction of one drinking day per month.
“A reduction of one drinking day per month may not sound like much, but small individual reductions can add up to a substantial reduction in population level harms,” Emily Tanner-Smith, lead author and associate professor at the University of Oregon, said in a news release posted to EurekAlert on Thursday.
Study authors noted that the findings were inconclusive for brief interventions delivered in emergency department and trauma centers, but did take effect when conducted in general medical settings, like a primary care clinic.
“Brief interventions have been shown to help with lots of health issues,” Dr. D.J. Moran, director of psychological services at Long Island University (LIU) Post in New York, and who was not involved in the study, told Fox News. “Alcohol abuse can be influenced in primary care settings if the general practitioner takes the time to do this kind of intervention.”
According to the study, general medical settings may be ideal because they present significant opportunity to screen for alcohol and drug use across non-treatment seeking patients of varying ages receiving services at the clinic for a wide array of other medical conditions.
The study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of data from 116 trials and 64,439 total participants. It investigated the efficacy of brief interventions for alcohol and other drug use delivered in various types of medical settings.
According to the authors, the process behind the brief interventions involves screening patients to identify unhealthy use, followed by a discussion targeted to the identified level of substance abuse before a referral for treatment or other substance-related services.
“If effective, these interventions offer a potentially cost-efficient method for addressing unhealthy substance use, particularly among non-treatment-seeking patients,” study authors wrote.
The report did note however, there was limited evidence regarding the effects of drug-targeted brief interventions on drug use.
“Given their brevity, low cost, and minimal clinician effort, brief interventions may be a promising way to reduce alcohol use, one patient at a time,” Tanner-Smith wrote in the release.