Study finds value in counseling problem drinkers during emergency-room visits

From the Washington Post:

Up to half of the people treated at hospital emergency departments and trauma centers are under the influence of alcohol, experts say. That might be a sobering statistic, but a recent study found that emergency departments can help capitalize on this “teachable moment” to discourage problem drinking.

In the study, published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, nearly 600 emergency department patients who were identified as hazardous or harmful drinkers (defined for men as drinking more than 14 drinks per week or more than four on any single occasion, and for women as more than seven weekly drinks or three on any one occasion) took part in a seven-minute interview.

During the interview, an emergency department staff member described the link between alcohol use and the patient’s condition as well as guidelines for low-risk drinking. The interviewer also encouraged the patient to discuss what was stopping him from drinking less and to set a drinking goal.

Compared with those who received standard care, patients who took part in the sessions reduced their average number of weekly drinks significantly as well as their episodes of binge drinking and of drinking and driving over the next 12 months.

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