Feasibility of screening and intervention for alcohol problems among young adults in the ED

Author(s): Hungerford DW, Williams JM, Furbee PM, Manley WG, Helmkamp JC, et al.


This study evaluates the feasibility of screening and brief intervention (SBI) for alcohol problems among young adults (18-39 years) in a rural, university ED. Research staff screened a convenience sample of patients waiting for medical treatment with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), used motivational interviewing techniques to counsel screen-positive patients (AUDIT >/= 6) during the ED visit, and referred patients to off-site alcohol treatment as appropriate. Patients were interviewed again at 3 months. Eighty-seven percent of age-eligible drinkers (2,067 of 2,371) consented to participate. Forty-three percent (894 of 2,067) screened positive, of which 94% were counseled. Forty percent of those counseled set a goal to decrease or stop drinking and 4% were referred for further treatment. Median times for obtaining consent, screening, and intervention were 4, 4, and 14 minutes, respectively. Project staff reported that 3% of patients screened or counseled were uncooperative. Seventy percent of 519 patients who participated in follow-up interviews agreed the ED is a good place to help patients with alcohol problems. High rates of informed consent and acceptance of counseling confirmed this protocol's acceptability to patients and indicated patients were comfortable divulging alcohol-related risk behavior. The modest times required for the process enhanced acceptability to patients as well as ED staff. The high prevalence of alcohol problems and the broad acceptance of SBI in this sample provide evidence of the ED's promise as a venue for this clinical preventive service.

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