A cross-national trial of brief interventions with heavy drinkers. WHO Brief Intervention Study Group

Am J Public Health. 1996 Jul;86(7):948-55. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.7.948.


Objectives: The relative effects of simple advice and brief counseling were evaluated with heavy drinkers identified in primary care and other health settings in eight countries.

Methods: Subjects (1260 men, 299 women) with no prior history of alcohol dependence were selected if they consumed alcohol with sufficient frequency or intensity to be considered at risk of alcohol-related problems. Subjects were randomly assigned to a control group, a simple advice group, or a group receiving brief counseling. Seventy-five percent of subjects were evaluated 9 months later.

Results: Male patients exposed to the interventions reported approximately 17% lower average daily alcohol consumption than those in the control group. Reductions in the intensity of drinking were approximately 10%. For women, significant reductions were observed in both the control and the intervention groups. Five minutes of simple advice were as effective as 20 minutes of brief counseling.

Conclusions: Brief interventions are consistently robust across health care settings and sociocultural groups and can make a significant contribution to the secondary prevention of alcohol-related problems if they are widely used in primary care.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Counseling / organization & administration*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • World Health Organization