Mental health

Screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful alcohol use

Question 1: What is the effectiveness of screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful alcohol use in non-specialist settings?

Management of alcohol use disorder

  • Population: health care settings (primary care, hospital emergency department, outpatients) not specialized in the treatment of alcohol use disorders
  • Interventions: brief interventions (up to 30 minutes) incorporating screening
  • Comparison: no intervention, usual care, leaflets
  • Outcomes:
    • alcohol consumption risk patterns
    • alcohol related harm (injuries)
    • alcohol consumption
    • mortality.

Recommendation(s)

Screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful alcohol use are recommended in non-specialist health care settings, except in areas of low prevalence. The brief intervention is still relevant in low prevalence areas/population groups.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Screening for hazardous and harmful alcohol use should be conducted, using a validated instrument that can be easily incorporated into routine clinical practice (e.g. AUDIT-3, AUDIT-C, ASSIST). In settings in which screening is not feasible or affordable, practitioners should explore alcohol consumption in their patients when relevant.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Patients with a hazardous and harmful alcohol use should receive a brief intervention. The brief intervention should comprise a single session of 5-30 minutes duration, incorporating individualised feedback and advice on reducing or ceasing alcohol consumption, and the offer of follow-up.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Patients who on screening are identified as having dependence should be managed according to the recommendations in the section on alcohol dependence.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Evidence profile

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