Effect of a brief motivational intervention in reducing alcohol consumption in the emergency department: a randomized controlled trial

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Introduction to alcohol consumption early in life increases the risk of alcohol dependency and hence motivational interventions are needed in young patients visiting the emergency department (ED).


This study aims to investigate the efficacy of a brief motivational intervention in reducing alcohol consumption among young ED patients.

Patients and methods

This was a blind randomized controlled trial with follow-up at 3 months. Patients were stratified on the basis of age and blood alcohol level of 0.5 g/l or more. A total of 263 patients aged 16–24 were randomized, with 132 patients in the brief motivational intervention group and 131 in the control group, with data collection at 3 months. From September 2011 to July 2012, a psychologist performed the brief motivational intervention 5 days after the patients’ discharge. A phone call was made at 1 and 2 months. The control group received a self-assessment leaflet. The reduction in consumption was determined on the basis of the number of drinks consumed in the last week prior to the survey.


The mean reduction between number of drinks at baseline and number of drinks at 3 months in the control group was 0.3 and that in the intervention group was 0.9. This reduction in alcohol use in the brief motivational intervention group was not significant. The study did not show an association between brief motivational intervention and repeated drunkenness [relative risk (RR): 0.99, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.79–1.24], alcohol consumption at least once a month (RR: 0.81, 95% CI: 0.31–2.10) and alcohol consumption at least 10 times during the month (RR: 1.1, 95% CI: 0.96–1.26).


We did not observe a significant decrease in alcohol consumption among the youth. Further studies are needed to confirm the positive impact of a brief motivational intervention in the ED.

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