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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • Counseling;
  • Brief Intervention;
  • Women;
  • Pregnancy

Background:

Studies suggest that 14% of women age 18 to 40 drink alcohol above recommended limits. Of special concern is the increasing use of alcohol by women during pregnancy. This article reports 48 month follow-up data from a subanalysis of a trial for early alcohol treatment (Project TrEAT) focused on women of childbearing age.

Methods:

Project TrEAT was conducted in the offices of 64 primary care, community-based physicians from 10 Wisconsin counties. Of 5979 female patients ages 18 to 40 who were screened for problem drinking, 205 were randomized into an experimental group (n= 103) or control group (n= 102). The intervention consisted of two 15 min, physician-delivered counseling visits that included advice, education, and contracting by using a scripted workbook. A total of 174 subjects (85%) completed the 48 month follow-up procedures.

Results:

No significant differences were found between the experimental and control groups at baseline for alcohol use, age, socioeconomic status, smoking, depression or anxiety, conduct disorder, lifetime drug use, or health care utilization. The trial found a significant treatment effect in reducing both 7 day alcohol use (p= 0.0039) and binge drinking episodes (p= 0.0021) over the 48 month follow-up period. Women in the experimental group who became pregnant during the follow-up period had the most dramatic decreases in alcohol use. A logistic regression model based on a 20% or greater reduction in drinking found an odds ratio of 1.93 (confidence interval 1.07–3.46) in the sample exposed to physician intervention. Age, smoking, depression, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and illicit drug use did not reduce drinking significantly. No significant differences were found in health care utilization and health status between groups.

Conclusions:

This trial provides the first direct evidence that brief intervention is associated with sustained reductions in alcohol consumption by women of childbearing age. The results have enormous implications for the U.S. health care system.