Targeting heavy drinkers at hospital emergency departments could reduce future alcohol consumption

September 27, 2004

Referring heavy drinkers for counselling at the time they attend hospital emergency departments for alcohol-related health problems could be an effective way of reducing subsequent alcohol consumption, suggest authors of a UK study published online by THE LANCET. Such intervention could also lead to fewer subsequent hospital visits.

Alcohol misuse is highly prevalent among people attending emergency departments--around a third of patients have consumed alcohol shortly before presentation, increasing to more than two-thirds of patients presenting after midnight. However, the effect of intervention by staff working in these departments is unclear.

Mike Crawford (Imperial College London, UK) and colleagues did a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effects of two types of intervention at the time individuals attended Emergency Departments. Around 600 patients were enrolled in the study; half received an information leaflet, the other half an information leaflet and a future appointment with an alcohol-health worker.

At 6 months, those referred to an alcohol-health worker were consuming an average of 60 units of alcohol per week compared with an average of 83 units for individuals who received only the information leaflet. Patients referred to an alcohol-health worker had on average 0·5 fewer visits to emergency departments over the following year (1·2 visits on average compared with 1·7 visits for the group not given counselling).

Dr Crawford comments: "Screening and referral for brief intervention for alcohol misuse in an emergency department is associated with reduced alcohol consumption and reattendance in the emergency department. Identification and referral of patients attending an emergency department who are misusing alcohol provides an opportunity to help patients develop insight into the consequences of their drinking and promote improved health".

In an accompanying commentary, Daniel W Hungerford (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA) concludes: "They {Crawford and colleagues} highlight the value of the physician's encounter with the patient and show that the ED {emergency department} visit can be used to start a clinical pathway for care of alcohol problems...physicians can take heart that the act of referral itself might motivate patients to reappraise their drinking behaviours".
Contact: Dr Mike J Crawford, Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Paterson Centre, 20 South Wharf Road, London W2 1PD, UK; T) 44-207-386-1233;

Dr Daniel W Hungerford, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA; T) 1-770-488-4142;


Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to