Brief Interventions in Primary Care: an Evidence Overview of Practitioner and Digital Intervention Programmes

Curr Addict Rep. 2018;5(2):265-273. doi: 10.1007/s40429-018-0198-7. Epub 2018 May 3.


Purpose of the review: Excessive drinking is a major public health problem that adversely affects all parts of the population. Previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses have reported that brief interventions delivered in primary care are effective at reducing alcohol consumption, albeit with small effect sizes that have decreased over time. This review summarises the updated evidence base on practitioner and digitally delivered brief interventions.

Recent findings: Using Cochrane methodology, 69 primary care brief intervention trials (33,642 participants) and 57 digital intervention trials (34,390 participants) were identified. Meta-analyses showed both approaches significantly reduced consumption compared to controls. Five trials (390 participants) compared practitioner-delivered and digital interventions directly with no evidence of difference in outcomes at follow-up.

Summary: Brief interventions have the potential to impact at both individual and population levels. Future research should focus on optimising components and delivery mechanisms, and on alcohol-related harms. Digital interventions may overcome some of the implementation barriers faced by practitioner-delivered interventions.

Keywords: Alcohol drinking; Alcohol problems; Brief interventions; Emergency care; Primary care; SBIRT.

Publication types

  • Review