Lack of efficacy in a randomised trial of a brief intervention to reduce drug use and increase drug treatment services utilisation among adult emergency department patients over a 12-month period

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Assess the 12-month efficacy of a brief intervention (BI) on reducing drug use and increasing drug treatment services utilisation among adult emergency department (ED) patients.


This randomised, controlled trial enrolled 18–64-year-old ED patients needing a drug use intervention. Treatment arm participants received a tailored BI while control arm participants only completed the study questionnaires. Self-reported past 3-month drug use and engagement in drug treatment services were compared by study arm at 3-month intervals over 1 year. Multiple imputations were performed to overcome loss-to-follow-up.


Of the 1030 participants, follow-up completion ranged 55%–64% over the four follow-ups. At 12 months, the two study arms were similar in regards to mean: (1) proportion reporting any drug use (treatment: 67.1% (61.6 to 72.6), control: 74.4% (69.4 to 79.4)); (2) drug use frequency on a five-point scale (treatment: 3.7 (3.3 to 4.2), control: 4.6 (4.0 to 5.2)); (3) total days of drug use (treatment: 28.3 (23.2 to 33.4), control: 33.4 (28.5 to 38.2)); (4) most number of times drugs used/day (treatment: 4.6 (3.6 to 5.5), control: 6.1 (4.8 to 7.3)) and (5) typical number of times drugs used/day (treatment: 3.3 (2.5 to 4.1), control: 5.1 (3.9 to 6.2)). Utilisation of drug treatment services also was similar by study arm. In multivariable regression analyses, patients who were homeless or had higher drug use at baseline continued to have greater drug use in follow-up.


Among adult ED patients requiring a drug use intervention, this BI did not decrease drug use or increase drug treatment services utilisation over a 12-month period more than the control condition.

Trial registration number

NCT01124591; Pre-trial.

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