Brief Screening by Docs Reduces Drinking

Physician screening and brief counseling offers some bang for very few minutes:

A 10-minute screening and talk with a doctor about problem drinking delivers almost as much bang for the buck to the health system as childhood immunization and advice about taking aspirin to prevent stroke and heart attack, according to a new systematic review — but just 8.7 percent of problem drinkers report receiving such information.

The review, which appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, included data from 10 randomized controlled trials of alcohol problem screening and advice by primary care doctors.

The review found that screening and brief counseling reduced problem drinking by 17.4 percent over a period that varied from six months to two years among studies. This means that more than one in six problem drinkers who received these brief interventions no longer fit that definition six months to two years later.