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Ann Intern Med. 2004 Apr 6;140(7):557-68.

Behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce risky/harmful alcohol use by adults: a summary of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

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Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon 97227-1110, USA.



Primary health care visits offer opportunities to identify and intervene with risky or harmful drinkers to reduce alcohol consumption.


To systematically review evidence for the efficacy of brief behavioral counseling interventions in primary care settings to reduce risky and harmful alcohol consumption.


Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Research Effectiveness (DARE), MEDLINE, Cochrane Controlled Clinical Trials, PsycINFO, HealthSTAR, CINAHL databases, bibliographies of reviews and included trials from 1994 through April 2002; update search through February 2003.


An inclusive search strategy (alcohol* or drink*) identified English-language systematic reviews or trials of primary care interventions to reduce risky/harmful alcohol use. Twelve controlled trials with general adult patients met our quality and relevance inclusion criteria.


Investigators abstracted study design and setting, participant characteristics, screening and assessment procedures, intervention components, alcohol consumption and other outcomes, and quality-related study details.


Six to 12 months after good-quality, brief, multicontact behavioral counseling interventions (those with up to 15 minutes of initial contact and at least 1 follow-up), participants reduced the average number of drinks per week by 13% to 34% more than controls did, and the proportion of participants drinking at moderate or safe levels was 10% to 19% greater compared with controls. One study reported maintenance of improved drinking patterns for 48 months.


Behavioral counseling interventions for risky/harmful alcohol use among adult primary care patients could provide an effective component of a public health approach to reducing risky/harmful alcohol use. Future research should focus on implementation strategies to facilitate adoption of these practices into routine health care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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