Brief alcohol intervention for general hospital inpatients: a randomized controlled trial

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Mar 1;93(3):233-43. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.09.016. Epub 2007 Dec 3.


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.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Selection
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Brief
  • Treatment Outcome