ALCOHOL INJURIES: Simple Intervention Cuts Risk by 48%
A "ground-breaking" study presented at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting indicates that brief talks with patients hospitalized with alcohol-related injuries can dramatically reduce their risk of repeat injury, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. Of 2,574 trauma center patients screened for participation in the Seattle-based University of Washington Medical School study, 46% showed evidence of a drinking problem. The study assigned 304 patients to receive a brief counseling intervention, and 396 patients to a control group for normal care. Interventions involved discussions with psychologists that focused on patient responsibility and discussions of treatment options, and offered encouragement that patients' alcohol problems could be overcome. Intervention patients also received follow-up letters one month after their hospitalization. Patients receiving the intervention were less likely to return to the hospital for treatment of repeat injuries than those in the control group; researchers identified a 48% difference for either inpatient or outpatient treatment within one year. The intervention was most effective in reducing injury rates among people with mild alcohol problems, but did not help severely dependent alcoholics. Although the study was conducted in a trauma center, which offers specialized care for patients with life-threatening conditions, author and trauma surgeon Dr. Larry Gentilello stated that similar programs may also be successful in general hospital emergency departments. Dr. Carl Soderstrom of the University of Maryland's trauma center in Baltimore noted, "It's the first evidence that such a brief intervention can help with alcohol problems in that setting" (Ritter, 8/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.