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Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Jun;51(6):742-750.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2007.11.028. Epub 2008 Apr 23.

Brief intervention for hazardous and harmful drinkers in the emergency department.

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Section of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.



To determine the efficacy of emergency practitioner-performed brief intervention for hazardous/harmful drinkers in reducing alcohol consumption and negative consequences in an emergency department (ED) setting.


A randomized clinical trial (Project ED Health) was conducted in an urban ED from May 2002 to November 2003 for hazardous/harmful drinkers. Patients 18 years or older who screened above National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines for "low-risk" drinking or presented with an injury in the setting of alcohol ingestion were eligible. The mean number of drinks per week and binge-drinking episodes during the past 30 days were collected at 6 and 12 months; negative consequences and use of treatment services, at 12 months. A Brief Negotiation Interview performed by emergency practitioners was compared to scripted Discharge Instructions.


A total of 494 hazardous/harmful drinkers were studied. The 2 groups were similar with respect to baseline characteristics. In the Brief Negotiation Interview group, the mean number of drinks per week at 12 months was 3.8 less than the 13.6 reported at baseline. The Discharge Instructions group decreased 2.6 from 12.4 at baseline. Likewise, binge-drinking episodes per month decreased by 2.0 from a baseline of 6.0 in the Brief Negotiation Interview group and 1.5 from 5.4 in the Discharge Instructions group. For each outcome, the time effect was significant and the treatment effect was not.


Among ED patients with hazardous/harmful drinking, we did not detect a difference in efficacy between emergency practitioner-performed Brief Negotiation Interview and Discharge Instructions. Further studies to test the efficacy of brief intervention in the ED are needed.

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