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Brief Chat With ER Docs Can Curb Problem Drinking
Date:1/4/2008

In study, 10 minutes of counseling helped people cut down on excessive alcohol use

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Even a little counseling on the dangers of alcohol abuse by an emergency room doctor or nurse can help problem drinkers cut back by at least three drinks a week, new research shows.

Researchers trained emergency room staff in a standard alcohol-use screening and counseling tool, then applied it to almost 7,800 emergency patients in 14 university-based emergency centers around the United States.

They found that more than one in four men reported drinking more than four drinks per day, and the same number of women reported consuming three or more drinks per day. That's the standard below which people are considered low-risk drinkers, as defined by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Of those patients who drank more than those limits, more than 1,100 agreed to participate in the study. They were then randomly assigned to receive either a one-on-one interview, following the Brief Negotiated Interview (BNI) protocol, with an emergency room doctor or nurse about alcohol use and abuse, or a pamphlet explaining low-risk drinking and listing local alcohol treatment providers. Those patients who received one-on-one counseling were also given the pamphlet.

"The BNI, a conversation between emergency-care providers and patients that involves listening rather than telling, and guiding rather than directing, is designed to review the patient's current drinking patterns, assess their readiness to change, offer advice about the low-risk guidelines and the next steps to pursue, and negotiate a written prescription for change or a drinking agreement with the patient," study co-author Dr. Edward Bernstein, professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the department of emergency medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement. The interview typically takes less
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