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The Impact of Brief Alcohol Interventions in Primary Healthcare: A Systematic Review of Reviews

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Amy O'DonnellORCiD, Professor Peter Anderson, Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Aims: The aim of the study was to assess the cumulative evidence on the effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions in primary healthcare in order to highlight key knowledge gaps for further research. Methods: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effectiveness of brief alcohol intervention in primary healthcare published between 2002 and 2012. Findings: Twenty-four systematic reviews met the eligibility criteria (covering a total of 56 randomized controlled trials reported across 80 papers). Across the included studies, it was consistently reported that brief intervention was effective for addressing hazardous and harmful drinking in primary healthcare, particularly in middle-aged, male drinkers. Evidence gaps included: brief intervention effectiveness in key groups (women, older and younger drinkers, minority ethnic groups, dependent/co-morbid drinkers and those living in transitional and developing countries); and the optimum brief intervention length and frequency to maintain longer-term effectiveness. Conclusion: This overview highlights the large volume of primarily positive evidence supporting brief alcohol intervention effects as well as some unanswered questions with regards to the effectiveness of brief alcohol intervention across different cultural settings and in specific population groups, and in respect of the optimum content of brief interventions that might benefit from further research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Donnell A, Anderson P, Newbury-Birch D, Schulte B, Schmidt C, Reimer J, Kaner E

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Alcohol and Alcoholism

Year: 2014

Volume: 49

Issue: 1

Pages: 66-78

Print publication date: 14/11/2013

Online publication date: 13/11/2013

Acceptance date: 21/10/2013

ISSN (print): 0735-0414

ISSN (electronic): 1464-3502



DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agt170