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1.  How Accurate Are Blood (or Breath) Tests for Identifying Self-Reported Heavy Drinking Among People with Alcohol Dependence? 
Managing patients with alcohol dependence includes assessment for heavy drinking, typically by asking patients. Some recommend biomarkers to detect heavy drinking but evidence of accuracy is limited.
Among people with dependence, we assessed the performance of disialo-carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (%dCDT, ≥1.7%), gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT, ≥66 U/l), either %dCDT or GGT positive, and breath alcohol (> 0) for identifying 3 self-reported heavy drinking levels: any heavy drinking (≥4 drinks/day or >7 drinks/week for women, ≥5 drinks/day or >14 drinks/week for men), recurrent (≥5 drinks/day on ≥5 days) and persistent heavy drinking (≥5 drinks/day on ≥7 consecutive days). Subjects (n = 402) with dependence and current heavy drinking were referred to primary care and assessed 6 months later with biomarkers and validated self-reported calendar method assessment of past 30-day alcohol use.
The self-reported prevalence of any, recurrent and persistent heavy drinking was 54, 34 and 17%. Sensitivity of %dCDT for detecting any, recurrent and persistent self-reported heavy drinking was 41, 53 and 66%. Specificity was 96, 90 and 84%, respectively. %dCDT had higher sensitivity than GGT and breath test for each alcohol use level but was not adequately sensitive to detect heavy drinking (missing 34–59% of the cases). Either %dCDT or GGT positive improved sensitivity but not to satisfactory levels, and specificity decreased. Neither a breath test nor GGT was sufficiently sensitive (both tests missed 70–80% of cases).
Although biomarkers may provide some useful information, their sensitivity is low the incremental value over self-report in clinical settings is questionable.
PMCID: PMC4060735  PMID: 24740846
2.  Mechanisms of Action of Brief Alcohol Interventions Remain Largely Unknown – A Narrative Review 
A growing body of evidence has shown the efficacy of brief intervention (BI) for hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary health care settings. Evidence for efficacy in other settings and effectiveness when implemented at larger scale are disappointing. Indeed, BI comprises varying content; exploring BI content and mechanisms of action may be a promising way to enhance efficacy and effectiveness. Medline and PsychInfo, as well as references of retrieved publications were searched for original research or review on active ingredients (components or mechanisms) of face-to-face BIs [and its subtypes, including brief advice and brief motivational interviewing (BMI)] for alcohol. Overall, BI active ingredients have been scarcely investigated, almost only within BMI, and mostly among patients in the emergency room, young adults, and US college students. This body of research has shown that personalized feedback may be an effective component; specific MI techniques showed mixed findings; decisional balance findings tended to suggest a potential detrimental effect; while change plan exercises, advice to reduce or stop drinking, presenting alternative change options, and moderation strategies are promising but need further study. Client change talk is a potential mediator of BMI effects; change in norm perceptions and enhanced discrepancy between current behavior and broader life goals and values have received preliminary support; readiness to change was only partially supported as a mediator; while enhanced awareness of drinking, perceived risks/benefits of alcohol use, alcohol treatment seeking, and self-efficacy were seldom studied and have as yet found no significant support as such. Research is obviously limited and has provided no clear and consistent evidence on the mechanisms of alcohol BI. How BI achieves the effects seen in randomized trials remains mostly unknown and should be investigated to inform the development of more effective interventions.
PMCID: PMC4143721  PMID: 25206342
brief intervention; alcohol; mechanisms; active ingredients; components; mediators; motivational interviewing
3.  Use of mobile devices to answer online surveys: implications for research 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:258.
There is a growing use of mobile devices to access the Internet. We examined whether participants who used a mobile device to access a brief online survey were quicker to respond to the survey but also, less likely to complete it than participants using a traditional web browser.
Using data from a recently completed online intervention trial, we found that participants using mobile devices were quicker to access the survey but less likely to complete it compared to participants using a traditional web browser. More concerning, mobile device users were also less likely to respond to a request to complete a six week follow-up survey compared to those using traditional web browsers.
With roughly a third of participants using mobile devices to answer an online survey in this study, the impact of mobile device usage on survey completion rates is a concern.
Trial registration NCT01521078
PMCID: PMC3708744  PMID: 23834999
Internet; Brief intervention; Alcohol; College; University; Mobile device
7.  2013 Update in addiction medicine for the generalist 
Increasingly, patients with unhealthy alcohol and other drug use are being seen in primary care and other non-specialty addiction settings. Primary care providers are well positioned to screen, assess, and treat patients with alcohol and other drug use because this use, and substance use disorders, may contribute to a host of medical and mental health harms. We sought to identify and examine important recent advances in addiction medicine in the medical literature that have implications for the care of patients in primary care or other generalist settings. To accomplish this aim, we selected articles in the field of addiction medicine, critically appraised and summarized the manuscripts, and highlighted their implications for generalist practice. During an initial review, we identified articles through an electronic Medline search (limited to human studies and in English) using search terms for alcohol and other drugs of abuse published from January 2010 to January 2012. After this initial review, we searched for other literature in web-based or journal resources for potential articles of interest. From the list of articles identified in these initial reviews, each of the six authors independently selected articles for more intensive review and identified the ones they found to have a potential impact on generalist practice. The identified articles were then ranked by the number of authors who selected each article. Through a consensus process over 4 meetings, the authors reached agreement on the articles with implications for practice for generalist clinicians that warranted inclusion for discussion. The authors then grouped the articles into five categories: 1) screening and brief interventions in outpatient settings, 2) identification and management of substance use among inpatients, 3) medical complications of substance use, 4) use of pharmacotherapy for addiction treatment in primary care and its complications, and 5) integration of addiction treatment and medical care. The authors discuss each selected articles’ merits, limitations, conclusions, and implication to advancing addiction screening, assessment, and treatment of addiction in generalist physician practice environments.
PMCID: PMC3819258  PMID: 24499640
Primary care; Alcoholism; Addictive behavior; Drug abuse; Substance-related disorders; Screening and brief intervention; Use of pharmacotherapy for addiction treatment in primary care; Integration of addiction treatment and medical care
8.  Perception of tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol use of others is associated with one’s own use 
Interventions have been developed to reduce overestimations of substance use among others, especially for alcohol and among students. Nevertheless, there is a lack of knowledge on misperceptions of use for substances other than alcohol. We studied the prevalence of misperceptions of use for tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol and whether the perception of tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol use by others is associated with one’s own use.
Participants (n = 5216) in a cohort study from a census of 20-year-old men (N = 11,819) estimated the prevalence of tobacco and cannabis use among peers of the same age and sex and the percentage of their peers drinking more alcohol than they did. Using the census data, we determined whether participants overestimated, accurately estimated, or underestimated substance use by others. Regression models were used to compare substance use by those who overestimated or underestimated peer substance with those who accurately estimated peer use. Other variables included in the analyses were the presence of close friends with alcohol or other drug problems and family history of substance use.
Tobacco use by others was overestimated by 46.1% and accurately estimated by 37.3% of participants. Cannabis use by others was overestimated by 21.8% and accurately estimated by 31.6% of participants. Alcohol use by others was overestimated by more than half (53.4%) of participants and accurately estimated by 31.0%. In multivariable models, compared with participants who accurately estimated tobacco use by others, those who overestimated it reported smoking more cigarettes per week (incidence rate ratio [IRR] [95% CI], 1.17 [range, 1.05, 1.32]). There was no difference in the number of cigarettes smoked per week between those underestimating and those accurately estimating tobacco use by others (IRR [95% CI], 0.99 [range, 0.84, 1.17]). Compared with participants accurately estimating cannabis use by others, those who overestimated it reported more days of cannabis use per month (IRR [95% CI], 1.43 [range, 1.21, 1.70]), whereas those who underestimated it reported fewer days of cannabis use per month (IRR [95% CI], 0.62 [range, 0.23, 0.75]). Compared with participants accurately estimating alcohol use by others, those who overestimated it reported consuming more drinks per week (IRR [95% CI], 1.57 [range, 1.43, 1.72]), whereas those who underestimated it reported consuming fewer drinks per week (IRR [95% CI], 0.41 [range, 0.34, 0.50]).
Perceptions of substance use by others are associated with one’s own use. In particular, overestimating use by others is frequent among young men and is associated with one’s own greater consumption. This association is independent of the substance use environment, indicating that, even in the case of proximity to a heavy-usage group, perception of use by others may influence one’s own use. If preventive interventions are to be based on normative feedback, and their aim is to reduce overestimations of use by others, then the prevalence of overestimation indicates that they may be of benefit to roughly half the population; or, in the case of cannabis, to as few as 20%. Such interventions should take into account differing strengths of association across substances.
PMCID: PMC3853223  PMID: 24499600
Overestimation; Substance use; Perception; Alcohol; Tobacco; Cannabis
9.  Predictive value of readiness, importance, and confidence in ability to change drinking and smoking 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:708.
Visual analog scales (VAS) are sometimes used to assess change constructs that are often considered critical for change. Aims of Study: 1.) To determine the association of readiness to change, importance of changing and confidence in ability to change alcohol and tobacco use at baseline with the risk for drinking (more than 21 drinks per week/6 drinks or more on a single occasion more than once per month) and smoking (one or more cigarettes per day) six months later. 2.) To determine the association of readiness, importance and confidence with alcohol (number of drinks/week, number of binge drinking episodes/month) and tobacco (number of cigarettes/day) use at six months.
This is a secondary analysis of data from a multi-substance brief intervention randomized trial. A sample of 461 Swiss young men was analyzed as a prospective cohort. Participants were assessed at baseline and six months later on alcohol and tobacco use, and at baseline on readiness to change, importance of changing and confidence in ability to change constructs, using visual analog scales ranging from 1–10 for drinking and smoking behaviors. Regression models controlling for receipt of brief intervention were employed for each change construct. The lowest level (1–4) of each scale was the reference group that was compared to the medium (5–7) and high (8–10) levels.
Among the 377 subjects reporting unhealthy alcohol use at baseline, mean (SD) readiness, importance and confidence to change drinking scores were 3.9 (3.0), 2.7 (2.2) and 7.2 (3.0), respectively. At follow-up, 108 (29%) reported no unhealthy alcohol use. Readiness was not associated with being risk-free at follow-up, but high importance (OR 2.94; 1.15, 7.50) and high confidence (OR 2.88; 1.46, 5.68) were. Among the 255 smokers at baseline, mean readiness, importance and confidence to change smoking scores were 4.6 (2.6), 5.3 (2.6) and 5.9 (2.7), respectively. At follow-up, 13% (33) reported no longer smoking. Neither readiness nor importance was associated with being a non-smoker, whereas high confidence (OR 3.29; 1.12, 9.62) was.
High confidence in ability to change was associated with favorable outcomes for both drinking and smoking, whereas high importance was associated only with a favorable drinking outcome. This study points to the value of confidence as an important predictor of successful change for both drinking and smoking, and shows the value of importance in predicting successful changes in alcohol use.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC3490974  PMID: 22931392
Readiness to change; Importance of changing; Confidence in ability to change; Unhealthy alcohol use; Smoking
Drug and alcohol dependence  2010;112(1-2):160-163.
To understand patterns of alcohol consumption and baseline factors associated with favorable drinking patterns among HIV-infected patients.
We studied drinking patterns among HIV-infected patients with current or past alcohol problems. We assessed drinking status in 6 month intervals. Based on National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines a favorable drinking pattern was defined as not drinking risky amounts at each assessment or decreased drinking over time. All other patterns were defined as unfavorable. Logistic regression models were used to identify baseline factors associated with a favorable pattern.
Among 358 subjects, 54% had a favorable drinking pattern with 44% not drinking risky amounts at every assessment, and 11% decreasing consumption over time. Of the 46% with an unfavorable pattern, 4% drank risky amounts each time, 5% increased, and 37% both decreased and increased consumption over time. Current alcohol dependence and recent marijuana use were negatively associated with a favorable pattern, while older age and female gender, and having a primary HIV risk factor of injection drug use were positively associated with a favorable pattern.
Many HIV-infected adults with alcohol problems have favorable drinking patterns over time, and alcohol consumption patterns are not necessarily constant. Identifying HIV-infected adults with a pattern of risky drinking may require repeated assessments of alcohol consumption.
PMCID: PMC2967629  PMID: 20579819
Alcohol; HIV; drinking patterns
15.  Factors Associated with Favorable Drinking Outcome 12 Months After Hospitalization in a Prospective Cohort Study of Inpatients with Unhealthy Alcohol Use 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2010;25(10):1024-1029.
Prevalence of unhealthy alcohol use among medical inpatients is high.
To characterize the course and outcomes of unhealthy alcohol use, and factors associated with these outcomes.
Prospective cohort study.
A total of 287 medical inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use.
At baseline and 12 months later, consumption and alcohol-related consequences were assessed. The outcome of interest was a favorable drinking outcome at 12 months (abstinence or drinking “moderate” amounts without consequences). The independent variables evaluated included demographics, physical/sexual abuse, drug use, depressive symptoms, alcohol dependence, commitment to change (Taking Action), spending time with heavy-drinking friends and receipt of alcohol treatment (after hospitalization). Adjusted regression models were used to evaluate factors associated with a favorable outcome.
Thirty-three percent had a favorable drinking outcome 1 year later. Not spending time with heavy-drinking friends [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 2.14, 95% CI: 1.14–4.00] and receipt of alcohol treatment [AOR (95% CI): 2.16(1.20–3.87)] were associated with a favorable outcome. Compared to the first quartile (lowest level) of Taking Action, subjects in the second, third and highest quartiles had higher odds of a favorable outcome [AOR (95% CI): 3.65 (1.47, 9.02), 3.39 (1.38, 8.31) and 6.76 (2.74, 16.67)].
Although most medical inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use continue drinking at-risk amounts and/or have alcohol-related consequences, one third are abstinent or drink “moderate” amounts without consequences 1 year later. Not spending time with heavy-drinking friends, receipt of alcohol treatment and commitment to change are associated with this favorable outcome. This can inform efforts to address unhealthy alcohol use among patients who often do not seek specialty treatment.
PMCID: PMC2955463  PMID: 20480250
unhealthy alcohol use; medical inpatients; factors associated with drinking and consequences
16.  Does Readiness To Change Predict Subsequent Alcohol Consumption In Medical Inpatients With Unhealthy Alcohol Use? 
Addictive behaviors  2009;34(8):636-640.
We studied whether readiness to change predicts alcohol consumption (drinks per day) 3 months later in 267 medical inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use. We used 3 readiness to change measures: a 1 to 10 visual analog scale (VAS) and two factors of the Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale: Perception of Problems (PP) and Taking Action (TA). Subjects with the highest level of VAS-measured readiness consumed significantly fewer drinks 3 months later [Incidence rate ratio (IRR) and 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.57 (0.36, 0.91) highest vs. lowest tertile]. Greater PP was associated with more drinking [IRR (95%CI): 1.94 (1.02, 3.68) third vs. lowest quartile]. Greater TA scores were associated with less drinking [IRR (95%CI): 0.42 (0.23, 0.78) highest vs. lowest quartile]. Perception of Problems' association with more drinking may reflect severity rather than an aspect of readiness associated with ability to change; high levels of Taking Action appear to predict less drinking. Although assessing readiness to change may have clinical utility, assessing the patient's planned actions may have more predictive value for future improvement in alcohol consumption.
PMCID: PMC2789443  PMID: 19428189
unhealthy alcohol use; readiness to change; medical inpatients; Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale (SOCRATES)
17.  Factor structure of the SOCRATES questionnaire in hospitalized medical patients 
Addictive behaviors  2009;34(6-7):568-572.
The Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale (SOCRATES), a 19-item instrument developed to assess readiness to change alcohol use among individuals presenting for specialized alcohol treatment, has been used in various populations and settings. Its factor structure and concurrent validity has been described for specialized alcohol treatment settings and primary care. The purpose of this study was to determine the factor structure and concurrent validity of the SOCRATES among medical inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use not seeking help for specialized alcohol treatment. The subjects were 337 medical inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use, identified during their hospital stay. Most of them had alcohol dependence (76%). We performed an Alpha Factor Analysis (AFA) and Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of the 19 SOCRATES items, and forced 3 factors and 2 components, in order to replicate findings from Miller & Tonigan (1996) and Maisto et al (1999). Our analysis supported the view that the 2 component solution proposed by Maisto et al (1999) is more appropriate for our data than the 3 factor solution proposed by Miller & Tonigan (1996). The first component measured Perception of Problems and was more strongly correlated with severity of alcohol related consequences, presence of alcohol dependence, and alcohol consumption levels (average number of drinks per day and total number of binge drinking days over the past 30 days)compared to the second component measuring Taking Action. Our findings support the view that the SOCRATES is comprised of two important readiness constructs in general medical patients identified by screening
PMCID: PMC2683890  PMID: 19395177
Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale; factor structure; medical inpatients; unhealthy alcohol use
18.  Improvements in readiness to change and drinking in primary care patients with unhealthy alcohol use: a prospective study 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:101.
The course of alcohol consumption and cognitive dimensions of behavior change (readiness to change, importance of changing and confidence in ability to change) in primary care patients are not well described. The objective of the study was to determine changes in readiness, importance and confidence after a primary care visit, and 6-month improvements in both drinking and cognitive dimensions of behavior change, in patients with unhealthy alcohol use.
Prospective cohort study of patients with unhealthy alcohol use visiting primary care physicians, with repeated assessments of readiness, importance, and confidence (visual analogue scale (VAS), score range 1–10 points). Improvements 6 months later were defined as no unhealthy alcohol use or any increase in readiness, importance, or confidence. Regression models accounted for clustering by physician and adjusted for demographics, alcohol consumption and related problems, and discussion with the physician about alcohol.
From before to immediately after the primary care physician visit, patients (n = 173) had increases in readiness (mean +1.0 point), importance (+0.2), and confidence (+0.5) (all p < 0.002). In adjusted models, discussion with the physician about alcohol was associated with increased readiness (+0.8, p = 0.04). At 6 months, many participants had improvements in drinking or readiness (62%), drinking or importance (58%), or drinking or confidence (56%).
Readiness, importance and confidence improve in many patients with unhealthy alcohol use immediately after a primary care visit. Six months after a visit, most patients have improvements in either drinking or these cognitive dimensions of behavior change.
PMCID: PMC2679737  PMID: 19358730

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