Objective: Brief interventions for hazardous and low-dependent drinkers in the primary care setting have considerable empirical support. The purpose of this study was to (1) evaluate the effects of brief advice (BA) and motivational enhancement (ME) interventions on alcohol consumption. In addition, a hindsight matching design was used to (2) study the moderator effects of patient readiness to change (alcohol use) on alcohol consumption.
Method: The subjects (N = 301, 70% men) were patients 21 years of age or older who presented for treatment at one of 12 primary care clinics. After screening for eligibility and providing consent to participate in the study, the patients completed a baseline assessment and were randomly assigned to the BA, ME or standard care (SC) interventions condition. Follow-up assessments were completed at 1-, 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-months postbaseline assessment.
Results: Evaluation of the first hypothesis (n = 232 for these analyses) showed that all participants tended to reduce their alcohol use considerably between the baseline and 12-month assessments. In addition, evaluation of the second hypothesis showed a moderator effect of readiness to change in predicting the number of drinks at 12 months, such that the BA intervention seemed more effective for patients relatively low in readiness to change compared to those higher in readiness. Readiness to change did not seem to be related to changes in drinking of participants in the SC or ME conditions.
Conclusions: The results confirm that, among primary care patients, substantial changes in alcohol consumption are possible. They further suggest that matching studies of patient readiness to change their alcohol use, as well as other variables, are warranted.