Alcohol misuse is highly prevalent among people attending emergency departments.
Around a third of patients attending have consumed alcohol shortly before presentation, increasing to more than two-thirds of patients presenting after midnight.
However, the effect of intervention by staff working in these departments is unclear.
Mike Crawford and colleagues in London, England carried out a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of two types of intervention at the time individuals attended Emergency Departments.
Identification of patients who are misusing alcohol provides an opportunity to promote improved health
Around 600 patients were enrolled in the study; half received an information leaflet, the other half an information leaflet and a future appointment with an alcohol-health worker.
At 6 months, those referred to an alcohol-health worker were consuming an average of 59.7 units of alcohol per week compared with an average of 83.1 units for individuals who received only the information leaflet.
Patients referred to an alcohol-health worker had on average 0•5 fewer visits to emergency departments over the following year (1•2 visits on average compared with 1•7 visits for the group not given counselling).
Dr Crawford comments: "Screening and referral for brief intervention for alcohol misuse in an emergency department is associated with reduced alcohol consumption and reattendance in the emergency department."
He added, "Identification and referral of patients attending an emergency department who are misusing alcohol provides an opportunity to help patients develop insight into the consequences of their drinking and promote improved health".