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Brief Interventions

Study Says That for Those Not Yet Dependent, the Best Way to Reduce Risky Drinking Is to Record Daily Consumption

It won’t work once you’re dependent, but a new study says that for heavy and binge drinkers who haven’t yet crossed that line, recording the amount consumed each day is an effective way to cut down.

Sometimes, a bit of well timed advice from a trusted health authority is all that's needed to help a person make a change in their drinking habits.

Doctors who council possibly at risk patients on healthier drinking perform a service called the brief intervention, and studies show that brief interventions at the general practitioner level are one of the most effective and cost effective ways to reduce harmful drinking at the societal level.

But after broaching the subject of harmful drinking, what’s the best advice for a general practitioner (GP) to give?

That’s what researchers at University College London wanted to know and to find out they looked back at clinical trials on brief interventions and compared different types of advice given to see which resulted in the greatest reduction in drinking by patients.

Some advice commonly given by GPs in brief interventions included:

  • Advising people on how to improve self confidence without needing to use alcohol
  • Advice on maintaining motivation to drink less
  • Advice on avoiding triggers to excessive drinking
  • Advice on monitoring daily consumption – patients were advised to write down how much they drank on a daily basis

The Results

The researchers found that people counseled to maintain a daily written record of their consumption made the largest reductions in harmful drinking.

Lead study author Susan Michie commented on the significance of the findings, saying, "In brief interventions, it's important to advise people how to reduce their drinking rather than just saying they ought to drink less. Getting patients to record how much alcohol they drink each day provides a concrete, easy task that raises their awareness of their behaviour and how well they are doing in staying within limits that they set themselves.”

The full results can be found in the journal, Addiction.

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