April 5, 2012

Accountability Strategy for Alcohol

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Alcohol abuse management starts with a candid talk about consequences and an active plan to change habits

(dailyRx News) A blanket statement that someone drinks too much may be too broad to make an impact. Approaching a heavy drinker with facts about the effects of too much alcohol and better ways to manage consumption can empower change.

Research suggests that patients may become more self-aware of excessive alcohol consumption if their doctor talks to them about the facts concerning alcohol abuse.

Doctors can then help the patient formulate a game plan to make certain lifestyle changes that starts with keeping a daily drinking log to help self-monitor consumption.

"Encourage limits, awareness and self-monitoring with alcohol consumption."

A study done by researchers from University College London and Leeds Addiction Center, focused on tying to find out if General Practitioners (GP’s) could help patients curb excess drinking by helping them keep track of their own actions.

Lead author, Susan Michie, Ph.D., professor of health psychology at University College London, says: “In brief interventions, it’s important to advise people how to reduce their drinking rather than just saying they out to drink less.”

This study wants to look at ways to help reduce excessive alcohol drinking, not treat people with alcohol addiction. By helping people learn to keep track of their drinking by using self-awareness, patients increase their own discipline.

Researchers got the idea to have doctors do these ‘brief interventions’ with alcohol, because this type of basic intervention has been successful in helping people cut back their smoking, exercise more and eat healthier.

Michie's team approached 11 international alcohol and drug experts from the U.S. and the U.K. and reviewed 13 treatment manuals from the London NHS healthcare organizations to find behavior change techniques (BCT) for the interventions.

This process of mixing and matching from successful approaches to other behavioral changes gave Michie's team a final list of BCT's to present to the GP's as a guide for discussing excessive alcohol consumption with their patients.

In the study, doctors are encouraged to help patients with setting reasonable goals so they can reduce their consumption on their own terms. They can also help the patient identify triggers for excessive drinking, like social cues, and how to avoid or deal with them. Evidence from the study suggests that boosting a patient’s motivation for this self-monitoring helps them feel more capable and encouraged. 

The study maps out specific questions for the doctor to ask, points to touch on and behavior change techniques to share with the patient for the best rate of success.

The study was published in the journal Addiction on March 28, 2012. No conflicts of interest were found. 

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
April 2, 2012

Last Updated:
April 5, 2012