Assisting problem drinkers to change on their own: effect of specific and non-specific advice

Addiction. 1994 Sep;89(9):1135-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.1994.tb02790.x.


Problem drinkers (99 males, 41 females) wishing to quit or cut down without professional help received a 60-minute session during which they were assessed and given at random one of these materials: Guidelines, a two-page pamphlet outlining specific methods for achieving abstinence or moderate drinking; Manual, a 30-page booklet describing the methods in the Guidelines; or General Information, a package about alcohol effects. At 12 months follow-up, subjects in the Guidelines and Manual conditions showed significantly greater reductions of heavy days (of 5+ drinks) than subjects in General Information (70% vs. 24%); in addition, significantly fewer subjects in the Guidelines and the Manual conditions expressed need for professional assistance with their drinking (25% vs. 46% in General Information). No main effect of condition or gender was observed on rates of moderate drinkers. At 12 months follow-up, 31% of the men and 43% of the women were rated as moderate drinkers. It was concluded that drinkers intending to cut down on their own derive greater benefit (in terms of their alcohol use) from materials containing specific instructions to develop moderate drinking than from those providing general information on alcohol effects. Clinical and research implications of the findings are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manuals as Topic*
  • Middle Aged