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Alcohol Alcohol. 2001 May-Jun;36(3):224-30.

Brief intervention for male heavy drinkers in routine general practice: a three-year randomized controlled study.

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  • 1Alcohol Research Centre, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland.


The aim of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of long-term brief intervention in routine general practice. In five primary care out-patient clinics in a Finnish town, 296 male early-phase heavy drinkers consulting a general practitioner (GP) for various reasons were identified. Control group C (n = 88) was informed of the risks of drinking after the screening and were advised at the subsequent feedback about 2 weeks later to reduce their drinking. Groups A (n = 109) and B (n = 99) were offered in addition seven and three brief intervention sessions, respectively. All GPs took part, whether or not they indicated a special interest. The main outcome measures were differences between beginning and end-point at 3 years in self-reported alcohol consumption, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), and serum carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyltransferase. There were no statistically significant differences between study groups A, B and C in mean changes in outcome measures. Within all the groups, MCV decreased. Depending on the outcome measure used and the study group analysed, clinically significant reduction of drinking was found in 25-53% of the subjects. In routine general practice, giving additional sessions of brief intervention may not be as effective as in special research conditions. Factors reducing the effectiveness of brief intervention programmes should be investigated, so that primary health care staff can be better supported in their efforts.

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