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02-04-2012 | Article

Drink diaries help cut booze intake


Free abstract

Getting patients to record how much alcohol they drink each day is the single most effective way to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, an analysis of "brief interventions" has found.

The study should provide useful insights for GPs, who are at the frontline of delivering the government's new Alcohol Strategy, published in March 2012.

Lead author Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, explained why self-monitoring is helpful: "In brief interventions, it's important to advise people how to reduce their drinking rather than just saying they ought to drink less.

"Getting patients to record how much alcohol they drink each day provides a concrete, easy task that raises their awareness of their behaviour and how well they are doing in staying within limits that they set themselves."

Brief interventions - such as providing information on the harms of excessive drinking, trying to boost motivation and self-confidence, and advising on avoidance of social cues for drinking - are known to have a small but significant impact on alcohol intake.

Michie's team developed a "common language" to describe the individual components of behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and then applied the new taxonomy to a Cochrane Review of brief interventions.

They found that interventions that included "prompt self-recording" of alcohol intake produced the largest reductions in drinking across the different studies. "More research is needed to identify other BCTs or groupings of BCTs that can produce optimal results in brief interventions," the authors remark.

The study is published in Addiction.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Joanna Lyford