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Int Emerg Nurs. 2012 Jul;20(3):167-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ienj.2011.09.006. Epub 2011 Oct 20.

The evidence for implementing alcohol screening and intervention in the emergency department - time to act.

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Western Health Drug and Alcohol Services, 3-7 Eleanor Street, Footscray, Victoria 3011, Australia.


The harmful effects of alcohol and its contribution to Emergency Department (ED) presentations are evident on a daily basis and undoubtedly add a significant burden on the health care system. Despite alcohol's prevalence in ED presentations, formal screening for alcohol use is not routinely applied in EDs. This paper reviews the evidence supporting the use of screening and the use of brief interventions in the ED. It aims to provide some insights into what may constitute best practice for health workers in relation to identifying and treating patients with problematic alcohol use. Although the burden of alcohol-related presentations is evident and the prevalence of problem acknowledged by health care professionals, the implementation of formal screening and brief interventions is at best inconsistent and sparse. Contemporary screening tools and interventions are critiqued within the ED setting and their advantages and disadvantages discussed. In conclusion, while there is a lack of homogeneity regarding the efficacy of screening tools and brief interventions in the ED setting, there are some promising indications that effectiveness may be enhanced by targeting the interventions at specific patient populations. It may also be possible to start considering innovative information technology applications to screen and intervene.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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