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Drunk Drivers May Respond to Brief Motivational Interview

Repeat offenders were more likely to consider change after 30-minute psychosocial intervention, study finds

FRIDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A program that gets persistent drunk drivers to consider why they should stop their dangerous behavior may lead to significant and long-lasting changes, researchers have found.

The new study included 184 men and women with two or more driving-while-impaired convictions, who were randomly assigned to one of two interventions. The first intervention was a 30-minute brief motivational interviewing session, which was a psychosocial intervention where participants were encouraged to review personal reasons for change. The other was a "control" intervention where participants received information about the hazards of driving while impaired.

Follow-up was done at six and 12 months, and the study findings have been released online in advance of publication in the February 2010 print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"The drivers we studied may be among the most dangerous drivers, what some authorities call 'hardcore drunk drivers,'" principal investigator Thomas G. Brown, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "We figured that an intervention tailored to their specifications would have to be very brief, something that could be applied opportunistically, say at the time of a court appearance."

Brown and colleagues found that the brief motivational interviewing intervention was 30 percent more effective than the control program in reducing the number of "risky drinking days" for up to one year. A "risky drinking day is when an individual drank enough on a given day that he or she would probably be impaired if they were to drive shortly after," Brown explained in the news release.

"What is new here is that this may be the first published report of a beneficial effect of a very brief version of motivational interviewing with individuals who are not in a clinical setting, not particularly motivated to reconsider their drinking (as an individual in an emergency room following an injury might be), and who are generally considered to be hardcore drunk drivers," Brown explained. "Nonetheless, the results underscore how, in the right hands, even very brief psychosocial interventions can have important and enduring effects in individuals who are often seen as impervious to change."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about impaired driving.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, news release, Nov. 19, 2009

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