Background: Today, heavy drinking is a common health hazard among women. The evidence in favor of providing some kind of brief intervention to reduce drinking is quite convincing. However, we do not know if intervention works in a natural environment of routine health care. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of long-lasting, brief alcohol intervention counseling for women in a routine general practice setting.
Methods: In five primary care outpatient clinics in a Finnish town, 118 female early-phase heavy drinkers who consulted their general practitioners for various reasons were given brief alcohol intervention counseling. Intervention groups A (n= 40) and B (n= 38) were offered seven and three brief intervention sessions, respectively, over a 3-yr period. The control group C (n= 40) was advised to reduce drinking at baseline. Main outcome measures were self-reported weekly alcohol consumption, carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyltransferase.
Results: Depending on the outcome measure and the study group, clinically meaningful reduction of drinking was found in 27% to 75% of the heavy drinkers. Within all the groups, MCV significantly decreased. However, there were no statistically significant differences between study groups A, B, and C in the mean changes between the beginning and endpoint in the main outcome measures.
Conclusions: The present study indicated that minimal advice, as offered to group C, was associated with reduced drinking as much as the brief intervention, as offered to groups A and B, given over a 3-yr period. Furthermore, in the routine setting of the general practice office, the effectiveness of the brief intervention may not be as good as in special research conditions. The factors possibly reducing the effectiveness in a routine setting are unknown. Thus, different methods of implementing brief intervention need to be evaluated to find better ways to support general practice personnel in their efforts to help heavy-drinking female patients to reduce their drinking.