A Systematic Review on the Effectiveness of Brief Interventions for Alcohol Misuse among Adults in Emergency Departments Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Given the frequency with which individuals seek treatment for alcohol-related consequences in emergency departments (EDs), they may be the optimal setting to deliver brief interventions (BIs) for alcohol misuse. Studies examining the effectiveness of BIs for alcohol misuse conducted in EDs have yielded mixed results, and new articles have been published since the last review in 2008. The aim of this study was to provide an updated systematic review on the effectiveness of BIs for alcohol misuse delivered to adults in EDs. Articles published in June 2014 and earlier were identified from online databases (PsycInfo, Healthstar, CINAHL, Medline, Nursing and Allied Health). Search terms included (1) alcohol, (2) "alcohol screening", "brief intervention", "brief alcohol intervention" or feedback and (3) "emergency department" or "emergency room". Once duplicates were removed, 171 abstracts were identified for review. Thirty-four studies were included in the systematic review. All studies reported a significant reduction in alcohol consumption at 3 months post-BI, with some studies finding significant differences between the BI and control groups, and other studies finding significant decreases in both conditions but no between-groups differences. The majority of studies did not find significant between-group differences at 6 and 12 months post-BI with regard to decreases in alcohol consumption. Individuals who received a BI were significantly less likely to have an alcohol-related injury at 6 or 12 months post-BI than individuals who did not receive a BI. BIs are unlikely to reduce subsequent hospitalizations however, they may be effective in reducing risky driving and motor vehicle crashes associated with alcohol use, which can result in hospitalization. Beyond the effects generated by visiting EDs, BIs delivered in EDs may not be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, or in reducing subsequent hospitalizations. BIs may be effective in reducing some alcohol-related consequences. Future studies ought to investigate for whom BIs are most effective, and the processes that lead to decreases in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences.


  • Landy, Meredith SH
  • Davey, Caitlin
  • Quintero, David
  • Pecora, Amanda
  • McShane, Kelly E

publication date

  • February 2016