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Research Summary

Brief Alcohol Intervention: Prolonged Benefits?

To examine whether brief intervention (BI) provides benefits beyond 1 year, investigators in Norway reassessed 247 adults who, in 1986, had been drinking at least 2–3 times per week, had elevated serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) levels, and had entered a randomized trial of BI. During the trial, these participants received either minimal intervention (a 10-minute discussion of possible reasons for elevated GGT); more extensive intervention (15 minutes of counseling regarding decreasing drinking and monthly visits until GGT levels normalized); or no intervention (though controls eventually received BI at 1-year follow-up). In this more recent study, investigators compared these participants with a new control group of subjects who, in 1986, also had been drinking at least 2–3 times per week but had GGT levels slightly below those required for inclusion in the original trial.

Nine years after the original trial (70% follow-up), those who had received BI, including members of the original control group, had significant decreases in GGT levels (compared with levels at trial entry). These decreases significantly differed from the increases seen in the new control group.


These results are informative, particularly in the absence of a clinical trial of BI with a decade of follow-up. The better outcomes among drinkers with high GGT levels than among those with lower levels suggests that the intervention played a role. This is the third (of 4) controlled studies in the literature to show long-term benefits. Brief intervention for risky drinking may be more effective than previously thought.

Richard Saitz, MD, MPH


Nilssen O. Long-term effect of brief intervention in at-risk alcohol drinkers: a 9-year follow-up study. Alcohol Alcohol. 2004;39(6):548–551.