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Pediatrics. 2012 Jul;130(1):115-22. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1589. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Screening, brief intervention, and referral for alcohol use in adolescents: a systematic review.

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Trauma Services, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, Austin, Texas 78723, USA. ka



Alcohol use by adolescents is widespread and is connected to a number of negative health and social outcomes. Adolescents receiving emergent care for injuries are often linked with risky use of alcohol. The trauma system has widely adopted the use of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) for preventing alcohol-related injury recidivism and other negative outcomes. The purpose of this article is to review the evidence around SBIRT with adolescent patients in acute care settings.


This article reviews 7 randomized controlled trials evaluating risky drinking interventions among adolescent patients in acute care settings. All studies took place in the emergency departments of level I trauma centers.


Four of the 7 studies reviewed demonstrated a significant intervention effect; however, no one intervention reduced both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences. Two of these 4 studies only included patients ages 18 and older. Subgroup analyses with adolescents engaged in risky alcohol-related behaviors, conducted in 2 of the studies, showed significant intervention effects. Five studies showed positive consumption and/or consequences for all study participants regardless of condition, suggesting that an emergent injury and/or the screening process may have a protective effect.


Based on existing evidence, it is not clear whether SBIRT is an effective approach to risky alcohol use among adolescent patients in acute care. Additional research is needed around interventions and implementation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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