Brief talks with a doctor can sometimes help reduce drinking

A new study led by a UO professor has found that short, one-to-one conversations about drinking delivered in doctors’ offices and similar medical settings can produce small but useful reductions in drinking.

Published in the journal Addiction, the systematic review and meta analysis synthesized findings from 116 trials and 64,439 total participants to estimate the effectiveness of brief interventions for alcohol and other drug use, delivered in general medical settings. Alcohol-targeted, brief interventions yielded small beneficial effects on alcohol use, equivalent to a reduction in one drinking day per month.

Interestingly, the findings were inconclusive for brief interventions delivered in emergency departments or trauma centers, but they were effective when delivered in other general medical settings, such as a doctor’s office. Limited evidence was found regarding the effects of drug-targeted brief interventions on drug use.

“A reduction of one drinking day per month may not sound like much, but small individual reductions can add up to a substantial reduction in population level harms,” said Emily Tanner-Smith, a Thompson Professor in the College of Education and lead author of the study. “Given their brevity, low cost, and minimal clinician effort, brief interventions may be a promising way to reduce alcohol use, one patient at a time.”