Aim: To test the effectiveness of a brief alcohol intervention among non-dependent general hospital inpatients with alcohol problems, delivered by either a specialized liaison service or hospital physicians.
Method: All inpatients of 29 wards from four general hospitals of one region in Germany were screened for alcohol problems (n=14,332). Of those screening positive, 595 patients were included in a randomized controlled group design using a time-frame. Patients with alcohol dependence were not considered in this study. Patients received Motivational Interviewing based counselling either by a specialized liaison service, by hospital physicians trained under routine conditions or received hospital treatment as usual without additional counselling. One year later, alcohol consumption, motivation and well-being were assessed. Sample survey analyses and generalized estimating equations were conducted.
Results: At baseline, the three groups differed regarding motivation, with higher motivation among the controls. At follow-up, the groups did not differ regarding alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems and well-being. All groups decreased their alcohol consumption significantly. Regarding motivation, longitudinal analyses revealed significant interaction effects of time and intervention (p<0.05), indicating a stronger increase of readiness to change drinking and a less profound drop of readiness to seek help among those who received intervention compared to the controls.
Conclusion: The intervention was not effective in reducing alcohol consumption or in increasing well-being 12 months after hospitalization. It had a positive effect on readiness to change drinking and on readiness to seek formal help for alcohol problems. The intervention groups compensated their lag of motivation.