Alcohol Interventions Among Underage Drinkers in the ED: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Pediatrics. 2015 Oct;136(4):e783-93. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1260. Epub 2015 Sep 7.


Objectives: This study examined the efficacy of emergency department (ED)-based brief interventions (BIs), delivered by a computer or therapist, with and without a post-ED session, on alcohol consumption and consequences over 12 months.

Methods: Patients (ages 14-20 years) screening positive for risky drinking were randomized to: BI (n = 277), therapist BI (n = 278), or control (n = 281). After the 3-month follow-up, participants were randomized to receive a post-ED BI session or control. Incorporating motivational interviewing, the BIs addressed alcohol consumption and consequences, including driving under the influence (DUI), and alcohol-related injury, as well as other concomitant drug use. The computer BI was an offline, Facebook-styled program.

Results: Among 4389 patients screened, 1054 patients reported risky drinking and 836 were enrolled in the randomized controlled trial. Regression models examined the main effects of the intervention conditions (versus control) and the interaction effects (ED condition × post-ED condition) on primary outcomes. The therapist and computer BIs significantly reduced consumption at 3 months, consequences at 3 and 12 months, and prescription drug use at 12 months; the computer BI reduced the frequency of DUI at 12 months; and the therapist BI reduced the frequency of alcohol-related injury at 12 months. The post-ED session reduced alcohol consequences at 6 months, benefiting those who had not received a BI in the ED.

Conclusions: A single-session BI, delivered by a computer or therapist in the ED, shows promise for underage drinkers. Findings for the fully automated stand-alone computer BI are particularly appealing given the ease of future implementation.

Trial registration: NCT01051141.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Underage Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult

Associated data