Jim McCambridge and colleagues reflect on how the concept of harm reduction may be being usurped by the alcohol industry.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Alcohol misuse is common in people attending emergency departments (EDs) and there is some evidence of efficacy of alcohol screening and brief interventions (SBI). This study investigated the effectiveness of SBI approaches of different intensities delivered by ED staff in nine typical EDs in England: the SIPS ED trial.
Methods and Findings
Pragmatic multicentre cluster randomized controlled trial of SBI for hazardous and harmful drinkers presenting to ED. Nine EDs were randomized to three conditions: a patient information leaflet (PIL), 5 minutes of brief advice (BA), and referral to an alcohol health worker who provided 20 minutes of brief lifestyle counseling (BLC). The primary outcome measure was the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) status at 6 months. Of 5899 patients aged 18 or more presenting to EDs, 3737 (63·3%) were eligible to participate and 1497 (40·1%) screened positive for hazardous or harmful drinking, of whom 1204 (80·4%) gave consent to participate in the trial. Follow up rates were 72% (n = 863) at six, and 67% (n = 810) at 12 months. There was no evidence of any differences between intervention conditions for AUDIT status or any other outcome measures at months 6 or 12 in an intention to treat analysis. At month 6, compared to the PIL group, the odds ratio of being AUDIT negative for brief advice was 1·103 (95% CI 0·328 to 3·715). The odds ratio comparing BLC to PIL was 1·247 (95% CI 0·315 to 4·939). A per protocol analysis confirmed these findings.
SBI is difficult to implement in typical EDs. The results do not support widespread implementation of alcohol SBI in ED beyond screening followed by simple clinical feedback and alcohol information, which is likely to be easier and less expensive to implement than more complex interventions.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN 93681536
Electronic screening and brief intervention (eSBI) has been shown to reduce alcohol consumption, but its effectiveness over time has not been subject to meta-analysis.
The current study aims to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the available literature to determine the effectiveness of eSBI over time in nontreatment-seeking hazardous/harmful drinkers.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant studies identified through searching the electronic databases PsychINFO, Medline, and EMBASE in May 2013. Two members of the study team independently screened studies for inclusion criteria and extracted data. Studies reporting data that could be transformed into grams of ethanol per week were included in the meta-analysis. The mean difference in grams of ethanol per week between eSBI and control groups was weighted using the random-effects method based on the inverse-variance approach to control for differences in sample size between studies.
There was a statistically significant mean difference in grams of ethanol consumed per week between those receiving an eSBI versus controls at up to 3 months (mean difference –32.74, 95% CI –56.80 to –8.68, z=2.67, P=.01), 3 to less than 6 months (mean difference –17.33, 95% CI –31.82 to –2.84, z=2.34, P=.02), and from 6 months to less than 12 months follow-up (mean difference –14.91, 95% CI –25.56 to –4.26, z=2.74, P=.01). No statistically significant difference was found at a follow-up period of 12 months or greater (mean difference –7.46, 95% CI –25.34 to 10.43, z=0.82, P=.41).
A significant reduction in weekly alcohol consumption between intervention and control conditions was demonstrated between 3 months and less than 12 months follow-up indicating eSBI is an effective intervention.
alcohol drinking; intervention studies; Internet; computers; meta-analysis
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a considerable burden of disease in the United Kingdom (UK), with most of this burden due to heavy drinking and Alcohol Dependence (AD). However, AD is undertreated in the UK, with only 8% of those individuals with AD being treated in England and only 6% of those individuals with AD being treated in Scotland. Thus, the objective of this paper is to quantify the deaths that would have been avoided in the UK in 2004 if the treatment rate for AD had been increased.
Data on the prevalence of AD, alcohol consumption, and mortality were obtained from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, and the 2004 Global Burden of Disease study respectively. Data on the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment and Motivational Interviewing/Cognitive Behavioural Therapy were obtained from Cochrane reviews and meta-analyses. Simulations were used to model the number of deaths under different treatment scenarios. Sensitivity analyses were performed to model the effects of Brief Interventions and to examine the effect of using AD prevalence data obtained from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
In the UK, 320 female and 1,385 male deaths would have been avoided if treatment coverage of pharmacological treatment had been increased to 20%. This decrease in the number of deaths represents 7.9% of all alcohol-attributable deaths (7.0% of all alcohol-attributable deaths for women and 8.1% of all alcohol-attributable deaths for men). If we used lower AD prevalence rates obtained from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, then treatment coverage of pharmacological treatment in hospitals for 20% of the population with AD would have resulted in the avoidance of 529 deaths in 2004 (99 deaths avoided for women and 430 deaths avoided for men).
Increasing AD treatment in the UK would have led to a large number of deaths being avoided in 2004. Increased AD treatment rates not only impact mortality but also impact upon the large burden of disability and morbidity attributable to AD, as well as the associated social and economic burdens.
Alcohol; Mortality; Alcohol dependence; Alcohol dependence treatment; United Kingdom
Aim: The aim of the study was to explore the evidence base on alcohol screening and brief intervention for adolescents to determine age appropriate screening tools, effective brief interventions and appropriate locations to undertake these activities. Methods: A review of existing reviews (2003–2013) and a systematic review of recent research not included in earlier reviews. Results: The CRAFFT and AUDIT tools are recommended for identification of ‘at risk’ adolescents. Motivational interventions delivered over one or more sessions and based in health care or educational settings are effective at reducing levels of consumption and alcohol-related harm. Conclusion: Further research to develop age appropriate screening tools needs to be undertaken. Screening and brief intervention activity should be undertaken in settings where young people are likely to present; further assessment at such venues as paediatric emergency departments, sexual health clinics and youth offending teams should be evaluated. The use of electronic (web/smart-phone based) screening and intervention shows promise and should also be the focus of future research.
The European level of alcohol consumption, and the subsequent burden of disease, is high compared to the rest of the world. While screening and brief interventions in primary healthcare are cost-effective, in most countries they have hardly been implemented in routine primary healthcare. In this study, we aim to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of three implementation interventions that have been chosen to address key barriers for improvement: training and support to address lack of knowledge and motivation in healthcare providers; financial reimbursement to compensate the time investment; and internet-based counselling to reduce workload for primary care providers.
In a cluster randomized factorial trial, data from Catalan, English, Netherlands, Polish, and Swedish primary healthcare units will be collected on screening and brief advice rates for hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. The three implementation strategies will be provided separately and in combination in a total of seven intervention groups and compared with a treatment as usual control group. Screening and brief intervention activities will be measured at baseline, during 12 weeks and after six months. Process measures include health professionals’ role security and therapeutic commitment of the participating providers (SAAPPQ questionnaire). A total of 120 primary healthcare units will be included, equally distributed over the five countries. Both intention to treat and per protocol analyses are planned to determine intervention effectiveness, using random coefficient regression modelling.
Effective interventions to implement screening and brief interventions for hazardous alcohol use are urgently required. This international multi-centre trial will provide evidence to guide decision makers.
ClinicalTrials.gov. Trial identifier: NCT01501552
Alcohol; Screening; Brief interventions; Primary healthcare; Training and support; Financial reimbursement; Internet; Implementation
Whilst the overall proportion of young people drinking alcohol in the United Kingdom has decreased in recent years, those who do drink appear to drink a larger amount, and more frequently. Early and heavy drinking by younger adolescents is a significant public health problem linked to intellectual impairment, increased risk of injuries, mental health issues, unprotected or regretted sexual experience, violence, and sometimes accidental death, which leads to high social and economic costs. This feasibility pilot trial aims to explore the feasibility of delivering brief alcohol intervention in a school setting with adolescents aged 14 and 15 and to examine the acceptability of study measures to school staff, young people and parents.
Methods and design
Seven schools across one geographical area in the North East of England will be recruited. Schools will be randomly allocated to one of three conditions: provision of an advice leaflet (control condition, n = 2 schools); a 30-minute brief interactive session, which combines structured advice and motivational interviewing techniques delivered by the school learning mentor (level 1 condition, n = 2 schools); and a 60-minute session involving family members delivered by the school learning mentor (level 2 condition, n = 3 schools). Participants will be year 10 school pupils (aged 14 and 15) who screen positively on a single alcohol screening question and who consent to take part in the trial. Year 10 pupils in all seven schools will be followed up at 6 and 12 months. Secondary outcome measures include the ten-question Alcohol-Use Disorders Identification Test. The EQ-5D-Y and a modified short service use questionnaire will inform the health and social resource costs for any future economic evaluation.
Young people recruited into the trial will also complete a 28-day timeline follow back questionnaire at 12-month follow-up. A qualitative evaluation (with young people, school staff, learning mentors, and parents) will examine facilitators and barriers to the use of screening and brief intervention approaches in the school setting in this age group.
Trial reference number ISRCTN07073105
Alcohol; Screening and brief intervention; Feasibility pilot trial; Motivational interviewing; Young people
Alcohol dependence is a significant and costly problem in the UK yet only 6% of people a year receive treatment. Current service provision based on the treatment of acute episodes of illness and emphasising personal choice and motivation results in a small proportion of these patients engaging with alcohol treatment. There is a need for interventions targeted at the population of alcohol dependent patients who are hard to engage in conventional treatment. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), a model of care based on assertive outreach, has been used for treating patients with severe mental illnesses and presents a promising avenue for engaging patients with primary alcohol dependence. So far there has been little research on this.
In this single blind exploratory randomised controlled trial, a total of 90 alcohol dependent participants will be recruited from community addiction services. After completing a baseline assessment, they will be assigned to one of two conditions: (1) ACT plus care as usual, or (2) care as usual. Those allocated to the ACT plus care as usual will receive the same treatment that is routinely provided by services, plus a trained key worker who will provide ACT. ACT comprises intensive and assertive contact at least once a week, over 50% of contacts in the participant's home or local community, and comprehensive case management across social and health care, for a period of one year. All participants will be followed up at 6 months and 12 months to assess outcome post randomisation. The primary outcome measures will be alcohol consumption: mean drinks per drinking day and percentage of days abstinent measured by the Time Line Follow Back interview. Secondary outcome measures will include severity of alcohol dependence, alcohol related problems, motivation to change, social network involvement, quality of life, therapeutic relationship and service use. Other outcome variables are treatment engagement including completion of assessment, detoxification and aftercare.
Results of this trial will help clarify the potential beneficial effects of ACT for people with alcohol dependence and provide information to design a definitive trial.
Trial registration number
assertive outreach; alcohol dependence; case management; substance use treatment; assertive community treatment
Shekhar Saxena and colleagues summarize the recent WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) intervention guide that provides evidence-based management recommendations for mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders.
Rationale: Clinical testing of oxygen-conserving devices is not mandated before marketing. Consequently, little is known about individual or comparative therapeutic effectiveness.
Objectives: To relate oxygen delivery from prototypical instruments to physiological performance.
Methods: Thirteen subjects with obstructive lung disease performed progressive treadmill exercise while inhaling either room air, 2 L O2/min, or bolus oxygen from four commercially available conserving devices at regulator settings of 2, 5, and continuous. The devices were studied blindly in random order after first being tested to determine performance characteristics. Pulse oximetry, oxygen delivery, and nasal and oral ventilations were monitored at rest and with exertion.
Measurements and Main Results: At a setting of 2 at rest, all conservers maintained saturation greater than 90%, but there were significant differences in oxygenation between systems. Only one equaled 2 L O2/min. With exertion, saturation decreased with all conservers but not with 2 L O2/min. One device did not perform any better than room air. Two systems provided less oxygen than predicted, one more, and in one the expected and actual amounts were equal only at rest. Breath-by-breath performance was highly variable, with irregular activation and inconsistent oxygen bolus size delivery. Increasing oxygen pulse volume to the point of eradicating conservation with the continuous setting did not eliminate all disparities.
Conclusions: The mechanical and clinical performances of current oxygen conservers are highly variable and in some instances actually contribute to limitations in exercise ability. Seemingly equivalent technical features do not guarantee equivalent therapeutic functionality.
oxygen; conservers; physiology; engineering; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
A large number of randomised controlled trials in health settings have consistently reported positive effects of brief intervention in terms of reductions in alcohol use. However, although alcohol misuse is common amongst offenders, there is limited evidence of alcohol brief interventions in the criminal justice field. This factorial pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial with Offender Managers (OMs) as the unit of randomisation will evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different models of screening to identify hazardous and harmful drinkers in probation and different intensities of brief intervention to reduce excessive drinking in probation clients.
Methods and design
Ninety-six OMs from 9 probation areas across 3 English regions (the North East Region (n = 4) and London and the South East Regions (n = 5)) will be recruited. OMs will be randomly allocated to one of three intervention conditions: a client information leaflet control condition (n = 32 OMs); 5-minute simple structured advice (n = 32 OMs) and 20-minute brief lifestyle counselling delivered by an Alcohol Health Worker (n = 32 OMs). Randomisation will be stratified by probation area. To test the relative effectiveness of different screening methods all OMs will be randomised to either the Modified Single Item Screening Questionnaire (M-SASQ) or the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST). There will be a minimum of 480 clients recruited into the trial. There will be an intention to treat analysis of study outcomes at 6 and 12 months post intervention. Analysis will include client measures (screening result, weekly alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, re-offending, public service use and quality of life) and implementation measures from OMs (the extent of screening and brief intervention beyond the minimum recruitment threshold will provide data on acceptability and feasibility of different models of brief intervention). We will also examine the practitioner and organisational factors associated with successful implementation.
The trial will evaluate the impact of screening and brief alcohol intervention in routine probation work and therefore its findings will be highly relevant to probation teams and thus the criminal justice system in the UK.
Ethical approval was given by Northern & Yorkshire REC
Trial Registration number
There have been many randomized controlled trials of screening and brief alcohol intervention in primary care. Most trials have reported positive effects of brief intervention, in terms of reduced alcohol consumption in excessive drinkers. Despite this considerable evidence-base, key questions remain unanswered including: the applicability of the evidence to routine practice; the most efficient strategy for screening patients; and the required intensity of brief intervention in primary care. This pragmatic factorial trial, with cluster randomization of practices, will evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different models of screening to identify hazardous and harmful drinkers in primary care and different intensities of brief intervention to reduce excessive drinking in primary care patients.
Methods and design
GPs and nurses from 24 practices across the North East (n = 12), London and South East (n = 12) of England will be recruited. Practices will be randomly allocated to one of three intervention conditions: a leaflet-only control group (n = 8); brief structured advice (n = 8); and brief lifestyle counselling (n = 8). To test the relative effectiveness of different screening methods all practices will also be randomised to either a universal or targeted screening approach and to use either a modified single item (M-SASQ) or FAST screening tool. Screening randomisation will incorporate stratification by geographical area and intervention condition. During the intervention stage of the trial, practices in each of the three arms will recruit at least 31 hazardous or harmful drinkers who will receive a short baseline assessment followed by brief intervention. Thus there will be a minimum of 744 patients recruited into the trial.
The trial will evaluate the impact of screening and brief alcohol intervention in routine practice; thus its findings will be highly relevant to clinicians working in primary care in the UK. There will be an intention to treat analysis of study outcomes at 6 and 12 months after intervention. Analyses will include patient measures (screening result, weekly alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, public service use and quality of life) and implementation measures from practice staff (the acceptability and feasibility of different models of brief intervention.) We will also examine organisational factors associated with successful implementation.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN06145674.
There is a wealth of evidence regarding the detrimental impact of excessive alcohol consumption on the physical, psychological and social health of the population. There also exists a substantial evidence base for the efficacy of brief interventions aimed at reducing alcohol consumption across a range of healthcare settings. Primary research conducted in emergency departments has reinforced the current evidence regarding the potential effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Within this body of evidence there is marked variation in the intensity of brief intervention delivered, from very minimal interventions to more intensive behavioural or lifestyle counselling approaches. Further the majority of primary research has been conducted in single centre and there is little evidence of the wider issues of generalisability and implementation of brief interventions across emergency departments.
The study design is a prospective pragmatic factorial cluster randomised controlled trial. Individual Emergency Departments (ED) (n = 9) are randomised with equal probability to a combination of screening tool (M-SASQ vs FAST vs SIPS-PAT) and an intervention (Minimal intervention vs Brief advice vs Brief lifestyle counselling). The primary hypothesis is that brief lifestyle counselling delivered by an Alcohol Health Worker (AHW) is more effective than Brief Advice or a minimal intervention delivered by ED staff. Secondary hypotheses address whether short screening instruments are more acceptable and as efficient as longer screening instruments and the cost-effectiveness of screening and brief interventions in ED. Individual participants will be followed up at 6 and 12 months after consent. The primary outcome measure is performance using a gold-standard screening test (AUDIT). Secondary outcomes include; quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed, alcohol-related problems, motivation to change, health related quality of life and service utilisation.
This paper presents a protocol for a large multi-centre pragmatic factorial cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of screening and brief interventions for hazardous alcohol users attending emergency departments.
To develop and evaluate the comparative effectiveness of behavioural interventions of enhanced prevention counselling (EPC) and simple educational counselling (SEC) in reducing hepatitis C viral (HCV) infection in sero-negative injecting drug users (IDU).
Randomised controlled trial (RCT) of EPC intervention in comparison with simple educational counselling (SEC).
Drug services in London and Surrey, United Kingdom.
Participants and Measurements
Ninety five IDUs were recruited and randomised to receive EPC (n = 43) or SEC (n = 52). Subjects were assessed at baseline using the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), the Injecting Risk Questionnaire (IRQ), and Drug Injecting Confidence Questionnaire (DICQ). The primary outcome was measured by the rate of sero-conversion at 6 months and 12 months from baseline and by the ASI, IRQ and DICQ at 6 months from baseline. Hepatitis C testing was undertaken by the innovative test of the dried blood spot (DBS) test which increased the rate of testing by 4 fold compared to routine blood testing.
Eighty two subjects (82%) out of the 95 recruited were followed up at 6 months and 62 (65%) were followed up at 12 months. On the primary outcome measure of the rate of seroconversion, 8 out of 62 patients followed-up at twelve months seroconverted, three in the EPC group and five in the SEC group, indicating incidence rates of 9.1 per 100 person years for the EPC group, 17.2 per 100 person years for the SEC group, and 12.9 per 100 person years for the cohort as a whole. Analysis of the secondary outcome measures on alcohol use, risk behaviour, psychological measures, quality of life, showed no significant differences between the EPC and the SEC groups. However, there were significant changes on a number of measures from baseline values indicating positive change for both groups.
We were not able to prove the efficacy of EPC in comparison with SEC in the prevention of hepatitis C in IDUs. This was related to low recruitment and retention rates of the participants. Moreover there was a low adherence rate to EPC. The study provided the benefits of developing and introducing behavioural interventions of the EPC and SEC and the DBS screening for Hepatitis C. Moreover the main lessons learnt were that piloting of a new intervention is a crucial first step before conducting pragmatic RCTs of psychological interventions in the field of addiction; that an infrastructure and culture for psychosocial interventions is needed to enable applied research in the service environment, and research funding is needed for enabling the recruitment of dedicated trained therapists for the delivery of these interventions.
There is a wealth of evidence regarding the detrimental impact of excessive alcohol consumption. In older populations excessive alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke and a range of cancers. Alcohol consumption is also associated with an increased risk of falls, early onset of dementia and other cognitive deficits. Physiological changes that occur as part of the ageing process mean that older people experience alcohol related problems at lower consumption levels. There is a strong evidence base for the effectiveness of brief psychosocial interventions in reducing alcohol consumption in populations identified opportunistically in primary care settings. Stepped care interventions involve the delivery of more intensive interventions only to those in the population who fail to respond to less intensive interventions and provide a potentially resource efficient means of meeting the needs of this population.
The study design is a pragmatic prospective multi-centre two arm randomised controlled trial. The primary hypothesis is that stepped care interventions for older hazardous alcohol users reduce alcohol consumption compared with a minimal intervention at 12 months post randomisation. Potential participants are identified using the AUDIT questionnaire. Eligible and consenting participants are randomised with equal probability to either a minimal intervention or a three step treatment approach. The step treatment approach incorporates as step 1 behavioural change counselling, step 2 three sessions of motivational enhancement therapy and step 3 referral to specialist services. The primary outcome is measured using average standard drinks per day and secondary outcome measures include the Drinking Problems Index, health related quality of life and health utility. The study incorporates a comprehensive economic analysis to assess the relative cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
The paper presents a protocol for the first pragmatic randomised controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of stepped care interventions for older hazardous alcohol users in primary care.
Objective To evaluate the efficacy and relative costs of different screening methods for the identification of alcohol use disorders in an opportunistic screening programme in primary care in the United Kingdom.
Design Comparative study.
Setting Six general practices in south Wales.
Participants 194 male primary care attendees aged 18 or over who completed an alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT) questionnaire.
Main outcome measures Scores on alcohol use disorders identification test and measures of γ-glutamyltransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, per cent carbohydrate deficient transferrin, and erythrocyte mean cell volume. Hazardous alcohol consumption, weekly binge consumption, and monthly binge consumption were ascertained using the time line follow back method over the previous 180 days. Alcohol dependence was determined using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. Unit costs were established from published resource references and from actual costs of analysing the biochemical tests.
Results A significant correlation was observed be alcohol consumption and score on the alcohol use disorders identification test (Pearson's correlation coefficient r = 0.74) and measures of γ-glutamyltransferase (r = 0.20) and per cent carbohydrate deficient transferrin (r = 0.36) but not aspartate aminotransferase (r = 0.08) or erythrocyte mean cell volume (r = 0.02). The alcohol use disorders identification test exhibited significantly higher sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value than all of the biochemical markers for hazardous consumption (69%, 98%, and 95%), weekly binge consumption (75%, 90%, and 71%), monthly binge consumption (66%, 97%, and 91%), and alcohol dependence (84%, 83%, and 41%). The questionnaire was also more cost efficient, with a lower cost per true positive for all consumption outcomes.
Conclusion The alcohol use disorders identification test questionnaire is an efficient and cost efficient diagnostic tool for routine screening for alcohol use disorders in primary care.