Helping patients who drink too much: an evidence-based guide for primary care clinicians

Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jul 1;80(1):44-50.


Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality, but few heavy drinkers receive treatment. Primary care physicians are in a position to address heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders with patients, and can do so quickly and effectively. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a guide for physicians that offers an evidence-based approach to screening, assessing, and treating alcohol use disorders in general health care settings. Screening can be performed by asking patients how many heavy drinking days they have per week. Assessing patients' willingness to change their drinking behaviors can guide treatment. Treatment recommendations should be presented in a clear, nonjudgmental way. Patients who are not alcohol-dependent may opt to reduce drinking to lower risk levels. Patients with alcohol dependence should receive pharmacotherapy and brief behavioral support, as well as disease management for chronic relapsing dependence. All patients with alcohol dependence should be encouraged to participate in community support groups

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Survival Rate
  • United States