• Alcohol;
  • brief intervention;
  • emergency room;
  • motivational interviewing;
  • young adults


Aim  To establish the efficacy of a brief motivational intervention compared to feedback only when delivered in an emergency department for reducing alcohol use and problems among young adults.

Design  Two-group randomized controlled trial with follow-up assessments at 6 and 12 months.

Setting  Level I Trauma Center.

Participants  A total of 198 18–24-year-old patients who were either alcohol positive upon hospital admission or met screening criteria for alcohol problems.

Intervention  Participants were assigned randomly to receive a one-session motivational intervention (MI) that included personalized feedback, or the personalized feedback report only (FO). All participants received additional telephone contact 1 month and 3 months after baseline.

Measurements  Demographic information, alcohol use, alcohol problems and treatment seeking.

Findings  Six months after the intervention MI participants drank on fewer days, had fewer heavy drinking days and drank fewer drinks per week in the past month than did FO patients. These effects were maintained at 12 months. Clinical significance evaluation indicated that twice as many MI participants as FO participants reliably reduced their volume of alcohol consumption from baseline to 12 months. Reductions in alcohol-related injuries and moving violations, and increases in alcohol treatment-seeking were observed across both conditions at both follow-ups with no differences between conditions.

Conclusions  This study provides new data supporting the potential of the motivational intervention tested to reduce alcohol consumption among high-risk youth.