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Alcohol. 2012 Sep;46(6):551-8. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 May 7.

Brief alcohol intervention as pragmatic intervention: who is voluntarily taking an offered intervention?

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Alcohol Treatment Centre, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Mont-Paisible 16, CH-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Brief alcohol interventions (BAI) have shown the potential to decrease problematic alcohol use among adolescents and young adults. Most of the BAI studies have been efficacy trials designed to achieve high internal validity but have raised questions regarding the feasibility of large-scale implementation. Providing interventions for those voluntarily wanting them might offer an alternative, and studies using this design would be more similar to effectiveness studies. The present research compares randomly selected 20-year-old men who took part in a scientific trial (efficacy) with those who voluntarily sought an intervention (effectiveness). Sampling took place during army recruitment procedures that are mandatory for all males in Switzerland. At-risk drinking (20+ drinks per week, or more than one risky drinking occasion of 6+ drinks per month) was determined a posteriori; there was no screening. There were a higher percentage of at-risk drinkers in the volunteer arm at baseline, but at-risk drinkers did not differ from those in the trial arm on any of the assessed alcohol measures. This suggests that offering BAI on a large-scale, voluntary basis may reach at-risk drinkers as effectively as do more scientifically oriented trials, without needing to adhere to screening and stringent research procedures. Nevertheless, BAI was more effective for at-risk drinkers who were invited for trial participation versus those who volunteered. This could be due to behavior that is already consolidated and is difficult to change. Lacking further modifications, real-world implementations of BAI for young men may be less effective than randomized controlled trials designed to test the efficacy of BAI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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