Aims Brief alcohol interventions typically have been directed to heavy-drinking patients seeking primary health care and college students. This study examined the efficacy of mailing brief personalized assessment-feedback to interested drinkers recruited from the general public. We hypothesized that problem drinkers would benefit more from the intervention than individuals who were not problem drinkers.
Design A two-arm, double-blinded, community-based randomized controlled trial with 6-month follow-up.
Setting and participants A screening interview was administered to a stratified random sample of 10 014 Canadians 18 years of age and older (5621 women and 4393 men; M age = 43.3 years, SD = 15.99; response rate = 65.4%).
Intervention Current drinkers interested in receiving alcohol self-help materials (n = 1727) were assigned randomly to receive brief personalized assessment-feedback on male and female population drinking norms by mail, or to a delayed-treatment control group, and were contacted 6 months later (76% retention rate).
Measurements Problem drinking status at baseline [using sex-specific Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) cut scores], and frequency and quantity of alcohol use at follow-up.
Findings Analysis of covariance identified the hypothesized interaction of baseline problem drinking status and treatment condition (P < 0.01). Among problem drinkers identified at baseline the intervention caused a 10.1% reduction in per-occasion binge drinking compared to controls, whereas there was no difference in binge drinking across conditions for non-problem drinkers.
Conclusions The continuum of care for alcohol problems can be broadened by providing brief interventions to interested drinkers in the general population.