Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, contributing to over 100,000 deaths and costing society over 185 billion dollars each year. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of the American College of Emergency Physician's brief alcohol use intervention brochure on patients' hazardous drinking behavior and knowledge of safe alcohol use. We conducted a controlled trial comparing Emergency Department (ED) subjects receiving the alcohol use intervention brochure vs. receiving no brochure. One-month outcome measures included the following: 1) change in days of hazardous drinking; 2) change in knowledge of safe alcohol use; and 3) movement along a readiness-to-change continuum for excessive alcohol use. Of 277 subjects, 252 (91.0%) agreed to participate, and 188 of these (74.6%) were successfully contacted for 1-month follow-up assessment. We did not find any significant decreases in days of hazardous drinking or increases in knowledge of safe drinking limits for either the intervention or comparison groups. However, among the subgroup of excessive alcohol users (n = 100), we found that significantly more intervention subjects had advanced along the readiness-to-change continuum than comparison subjects (p < 0.01). This effect was even greater among the intervention group subjects who stated that they read the brochure (p < 0.001). A brief alcohol use intervention brochure does not affect ED patients' hazardous drinking behavior or knowledge of safe alcohol use. The brochure, however, may affect certain patients' motivation to change their drinking behavior. Changing drinking behavior requires more than simply handing out a brochure in the ED; referral to community resources for those motivated to change is likely an important component to successful management of this problem.
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