Cutting Back: Managed Care Screening and Brief Intervention for Risky Drinking

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: Alcohol abuse and addiction

Problem Synopsis: Contrary to popular opinion, a significant proportion of the harm relating to alcohol abuse is incurred or caused not by alcoholics but by persons who drink too much on some occasions. Findings of the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey suggest that while 4 to 5 percent of adult Americans are alcohol-dependent, approximately 20 percent drink in a way that creates a risk of harm to themselves or others.

Synopsis of the Work: From 1994 to 2002, researchers at the Alcohol Research Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington conducted a study of the practicality and effectiveness of a low-cost intervention to address risky drinking by patients attending managed care clinics.

Key Findings

  • Findings reported by the researchers included:

    • The interventions produced a modest but statistically significant reduction in at-risk drinking.
    • Interventions organized and delivered by nonphysician specialists proved as effective as those provided in the course of a routine medical visit, at about 40 percent lower cost.
    • There was no significant difference between intervention and comparison groups in their use of medical services during the one-year study period.

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