The long-term effectiveness of brief interventions for unsafe alcohol consumption: a 10-year follow-up


Sonia Wutzke National Prescribing Service Level 1, 31 Buckingham St Surry Hills, NSW 2010 Australia Tel: + 61 29699 4499 Fax: + 61 29699 5155 E-mail:


Aims To examine the long-term impact of brief and early interventions for hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption.

Design A 9-month and 10-year follow-up of subjects recruited into a randomized controlled trial of a range of alcohol-related brief interventions.

Setting General practices, the outpatient or acute care services of a major city hospital, and a privately run health screening programmeme.

Participants The cohort of 554 (non-dependent) hazardous and harmful drinkers recruited into the Australian arm of the Phase II World Health Organization collaborative project on identification and treatment of persons with harmful alcohol consumption.

Intervention The effectiveness of three forms of intervention, ranging from 5 to 60 minutes in duration, were compared with a no-treatment control condition.

Measurements Included drinking behaviour and biological markers of alcohol use. In addition, at 10 years subjects were asked about symptoms of diagnosable alcohol use disorders and their experience of alcohol-related psychological, social and physical harm. Mortality was also assessed.

Findings Results provide further evidence for the short-term effectiveness of alcohol-related brief interventions. In comparison to controls, subjects offered intervention: (1) report significantly lower consumption; and (2) less unsafe drinking at 9-month follow-up. The intensity of intervention was not related to the amount of change in drinking behaviour. Analysis at 10 years failed to find any differences in outcomes between intervention and control groups in median consumption, mean reduction in consumption from baseline to follow-up, mortality and ICD-10 diagnoses of alcohol dependence or harmful alcohol use.

Conclusions This study failed to find evidence that brief advice and counselling without regular follow-up and reinforcement can sustain significant long-term reductions in drinking behaviour at 10-year follow-up.