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BMJ. 1994 Jun 11;308(6943):1549-52.

Reducing alcohol intake.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Oxford.


Alcohol is second in importance only to smoking as a proved cause of cancer. The risk associated with excessive alcohol consumption can be reduced by adopting national and local population based policies. The population approach is aimed at reducing the level of consumption across the whole population, which contains many modest drinkers. Underlying this approach is the fact that a larger proportion of the total morbidity and mortality attributed to alcohol in a population occurs in modest drinkers, even though individually they are at lower risk. This approach should be complemented by risk reduction initiatives in primary care, focused on high risk individuals. Several studies have shown the efficacy of brief interventions by general practitioners in patients with excessive alcohol consumption. Brief interventions, taking 5 to 10 minutes, use simple assessments to identify those at risk and provide information and advice. Evidence exists that general practitioners underuse opportunities to identify and advise patients about excessive drinking.

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