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Research Summary

Computerized Brief Intervention Decreases Drinking and Consequences

Time and labor constraints on clinicians have spurred the search for innovative methods to deliver personalized feedback on unhealthy drinking behavior. One such innovation is computer-based brief intervention (BI). To assess the efficacy of computer-based BI to reduce unhealthy alcohol use, researchers conducted a randomized trial of 61 problem drinkers (AUDIT* >=8) who were not in alcohol treatment and were recruited through newspaper advertising. Subjects were assigned to receive a computer-based BI** either shortly after study entry (i.e., intervention group) or at least 4 weeks after entry (i.e., control group).

  • At baseline, both groups averaged about 5.6 drinks per day.
  • At 4 weeks, the intervention group had significantly greater reductions in their average drinks per day than did the control group (changes from baseline of -3 drinks and -1.5 drinks, respectively).
  • This reduction persisted for the intervention group at 12 months.
  • The intervention group also significantly improved from baseline on a number of other drinking measures (e.g., alcohol consequences, readiness to change).


It seems inevitable that computers will play an ever-larger role in clinical assessment, intervention, and monitoring for a whole host of disorders. This study adds to a growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of individualized, nonthreatening feedback—whether by a human or machine—about drinking.

Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH
*Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test
**An online version is available at


Hester RK, Squires DD, Delaney HD. The Drinker's Check-up: 12-month outcomes of a controlled clinical trial of a stand-alone software program for problem drinkers. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2005;28:159-169.