Methods and Outcomes
The project was a multi-faceted program aimed at decreasing problem drinking and reducing alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. The components of the program and results of each are described below. First, however, it is important to define terms used in the report:
"Alcohol problems": includes the entire range of severity of problems from mild to severe. This continuum includes terms such as "hazardous drinking" (drinking so as to risk negative consequences such as injury or illness, alcohol abuse (drinking despite negative consequences), and alcohol dependence (being "addicted" or "hooked’ on alcohol and showing symptoms such as tolerance, withdrawal, not quitting despite wanting to quit, and impaired social or professional functioning).
"Alcohol screening": asking patients special questions about their drinking or using lab values (breath, urine, or blood) to detect alcohol in the body.
"Brief intervention": same as "brief counseling", a short counseling session, sometimes as brief as 5-10 minutes, in which a physician or other health care provider discusses with the patient his/her alcohol consumption, consequences, and negotiates a behavior change with that patient. The patient often does not expect to get a brief intervention because he/she is visiting a physician or is in the hospital for some other medical reason. Brief interventions are appropriate and helpful for all patients with alcohol problems. For those with milder alcohol problems, a brief intervention may be all they need to motivate them to change their drinking by quitting or cutting down to within low-risk guidelines. For patients who are dependent on alcohol, a brief intervention can sometimes trigger their seeking specialized treatment for chemical dependency because the brief intervention included a referral for such treatment.
"Specialized treatment for alcohol problems": Specialized chemical dependency treatment provided by certified chemical dependency counselors. Always longer and more intensive than a brief intervention. Many patients needing specialized treatment fail to get it. Not all patients with alcohol problems recover using this specialized care. Many recover on their own.