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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effectiveness of SBIRT for Alcohol Use Disorders in the Emergency Department: A Systematic Review


Introduction: Alcohol use disorders (AUD) place a significant burden on individuals and society. Theemergency department (ED) offers a unique opportunity to address AUD with brief screening tools andearly intervention. We undertook a systematic review of the effectiveness of ED brief interventions forpatients identified through screening who are at risk for AUD, and the effectiveness of these interventionsat reducing alcohol intake and preventing alcohol-related injuries.

Methods: We conducted systematic electronic database searches to include randomized controlled trialsof AUD screening, brief intervention, referral, and treatment (SBIRT), from January 1966 to April 2016. Twoauthors graded and abstracted data from each included paper.

Results: We found 35 articles that had direct relevance to the ED with enrolled patients ranging from12 to 70 years of age. Multiple alcohol screening tools were used to identify patients at risk for AUD.Brief intervention (BI) and brief motivational intervention (BMI) strategies were compared to a controlintervention or usual care. Thirteen studies enrolling a total of 5,261 participants reported significantdifferences between control and intervention groups in their main alcohol-outcome criteria of number ofdrink days and number of units per drink day. Sixteen studies showed a reduction of alcohol consumptionin both the control and intervention groups; of those, seven studies did not identify a significant interventioneffect for the main outcome criteria, but nine observed some significant differences between BI and controlconditions for specific subgroups (i.e., adolescents and adolescents with prior history of drinking anddriving; women 22 years old or younger; low or moderate drinkers); or secondary outcome criteria (e.g.reduction in driving while intoxicated).

Conclusion: Moderate-quality evidence of targeted use of BI/BMI in the ED showed a small reduction inalcohol use in low or moderate drinkers, a reduction in the negative consequences of use (such as injury),and a decline in ED repeat visits for adults and children 12 years of age and older. BI delivered in the EDappears to have a short-term effect in reducing at-risk drinking.


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