About a quarter of individuals screened for alcohol misuse in hospital emergency rooms reported unsafe drinking levels, according to a study concluding that hospital-based brief interventions for alcohol problems are effective.

This target population has previously been thought to be unresponsive to intervention.

Medical News Today reported Dec. 26 that the study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that screened patients who received brief counseling during ER visits reported lower levels of risky drinking three months later than those who only received written advice about controlling their drinking.

The research was conducted at 14 university-based emergency health centers in the U.S. A total of 7,751 patients received a brief questionnaire about their alcohol use, and more than 1,100 who reported excessive alcohol use — defined as more than 14 drinks per week for men and more than 7 per week for women — took part in the study. The intervention tool used by ER staff was the Brief Negotiated Interview (BNI).

“This study demonstrates that a broad group of emergency practitioners can learn how to perform the intervention and that it is effective across multiple practice sites,” said study co-author Gail D’Onofrio, M.D., professor and chief of emergency medicine at Yale University. “The emergency department visit is often the only access to care for many patients and thus is an ideal opportunity to begin the conversation regarding unhealthy alcohol use.”

The study appeared in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Brief-TSF can assist patients cease alcohol consumption.