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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brief Interventions May Not Help People With Drug Problems

Shown is the back of a female patient with a d...
Screening for signs of alcohol or drug abuse in the doctor's office has become a common practice. Just asking a couple simple questions can help physicians determine if a patient may have a problem with alcohol, which opens the door for discussion and can lead to a patient seeking help for their problem. However, while brief counseling from a doctor may help some problem drinkers two new studies have found that brief counseling may not be effective in counteracting drug use, according to NPR.

The studies come in the wake of public health officials urging primary care doctors and hospital emergency rooms to ask their patients about drug use, and to give those with a drug problem a 10- to 15-minute counseling session, called a brief intervention. The hope is that the brief intervention will encourage the patient to seek additional help.

In one study researchers observed 500 people who were determined by doctors to have a drug problem. Researchers then divided the 500 into three separate groups. The first two groups received brief counseling; however, the third group received no counseling at all. After six months, researchers determined that the two groups who received counseling had not reduced their use any more than the third group.

The second study looked at people who received brief counseling and a short phone call two weeks later. Researchers found that the patients had not reduced their drug use any more than people who did not receive counseling. They found that the only people who received brief counseling and sought treatment for their problem were those people with the most severe drug problems.

“I think it was wishful thinking that a problem as complex could be solved with a simple intervention,” said Richard Saitz of Boston University, author of the first study.

Dr. H. Westley Clark, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told NPR that the brief interventions model is very useful for many patients. “But as you popularize the intervention, you want to refine your approach,” he noted.

The studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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