Brief counselling by doctor can reduce drinking

Posted on: 25th October 2021

A new review has found that alcohol-targeted brief interventions (short, structured, one-to-one conversations about drinking designed to motivate changes in risky behaviour) delivered in doctors’ offices and similar medical settings can produce small but useful reductions in drinking.

Published in the scientific journal Addiction, this review looked at findings from 116 trials and 64,439 total participants to estimate the efficacy of brief interventions for alcohol and other drug use, delivered in general medical settings.

Alcohol-targeted brief interventions yielded small beneficial effects on alcohol use, equivalent to a reduction in one drinking day per month. Interestingly, the findings were inconclusive for brief interventions delivered in emergency departments but were effective when delivered in other general medical settings (e.g., a primary care clinic).

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “Cutting down on drinking alcohol, or stopping drinking altogether, can be very difficult and a lot of people need help with this – as many as 70% of people with alcohol-related liver disease are alcohol-dependent. However, the earlier people get support, the better their chances are of reducing or reversing any damage to the liver before it’s too late for treatment.

Lead author Emily Tanner-Smith comments: “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. 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.”

You can read the full findings of the study here: Effects of brief substance use interventions delivered in general medical settings: a systematic review and meta‐analysis - Tanner‐Smith - - Addiction - Wiley Online Library