Behavioral counseling is an effective treatment for alcohol misuse

Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386

Behavioral counseling interventions improved certain behavioral outcomes for adults with risky/hazardous drinking habits (i.e., consumption of alcohol above recommended amounts or at levels that increase the risk for health consequences), according to a new review from the Effective Health Care Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The research review assessed the effectiveness of screening followed by behavioral counseling for alcohol misuse in adolescents and adults in primary care settings. Among adults who received behavioral counseling interventions, alcohol consumption decreased by 3.6 drinks per week (from an average of about 23 drinks to about 19 drinks per week).

For most medical outcomes, such as kidney/liver damage, etc., available evidence either found no difference between interventions and controls or was insufficient to draw conclusions. The best evidence of effectiveness was for 10-15 minute sessions on behavior improvement focusing on how patients use or misuse alcohol.

Alcohol misuse, which includes a range of behaviors from risky/hazardous drinking to alcohol dependence, is associated with numerous health and social problems, more than 85,000 deaths per year in the United States, and an estimated annual cost to society of more than $220 billion.

To access Screening, Behavioral Counseling, and Referral in Primary Care To Reduce Alcohol Misuse and other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions, visit AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program Web site:

Current as of October 2012
Internet Citation: Behavioral counseling is an effective treatment for alcohol misuse: Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386. October 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.