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Alcohol is a leading risk factor for ill health and premature death. Regardless of poor levels of implementation achieved after more than 30 years of research and policy advice, alcohol screening and brief advice (SBA) remains one of the best policy options. This study updates the evidence by considering recent publications on SBA for heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder in primary healthcare at a timely moment, because researchers are, at present, debating future direction of research and policy in this field.Systematic literature search between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2017 was conducted for new research on alcohol SBA in primary healthcare. In all, 63 articles were included.Primary healthcare-based SBA programmes are effective in reducing alcohol consumption among heavier drinkers. There is low implementation of these programmes in real practice. Academia is rethinking and debating future directions.