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A brief alcohol intervention for hazardously drinking incarcerated women


Michael Stein, Brown University, Butler Hospital, General Medicine Research, 345 Blackstone Boulevard., Providence, RI 02906, USA. E-mail:


Objective  To test the hypothesis that among hazardously drinking incarcerated women who are returning to the community, a brief alcohol intervention will result in less alcohol use at follow-up relative to standard of care.

Methods  Eligible participants endorsed hazardous alcohol consumption—four or more drinks at a time on at least 3 separate days in the previous 3 months or a score of 8 or above on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Participants were randomized to either an assessment-only condition or to two brief motivationally focused sessions, the first delivered during incarceration, the second 1 month later after community re-entry. Participants recalled drinking behaviors at 3 and 6 months after the baseline interview using a 90-day time-line follow-back method.

Results  The 245 female participants averaged 34 years of age, and were 71% Caucasian. The mean percentage of alcohol use days in the 3 months prior to incarceration was 51.7% and heavy alcohol use days was 43.9%. Intervention effects on abstinent days were statistically significant at 3 months (odds ratio = 1.96, 95% confidence interval 1.17, 3.30); the percentage of days abstinent was 68% for those randomized to intervention and 57% for controls. At 6 months the effect of the intervention was attenuated and no longer statistically significant.

Conclusions  Among incarcerated women who reported hazardous drinking, a two-session brief alcohol intervention increased abstinent days at 3 months, but this effect decayed by 6 months. Study participants continued to drink heavily after return to the community. More intensive intervention pre-release and after re-entry may benefit hazardously drinking incarcerated women.