People involved in an alcohol-related auto accident who receive counseling in the emergency department (ED) plus a follow-up session are less likely to have a repeat experience in the following year, according to a new study. Researchers assigned 539 ED patients to three groups:
* standard care for injured ED patients with an alcohol use problem who were being discharged home
* a brief motivational intervention consisting of empathetic, nonconfrontational counseling while the patient's blood alcohol level was dropping
* a brief motivational intervention plus a 40-minute "booster" session with a counselor 7 to 10 days later.
Following up a year later, researchers found that people who'd had the ED motivational session plus the "booster" session had two-thirds fewer alcohol-related injuries compared with those who'd received only standard care. However, they found no significant differences between those who received only one motivational session and those receiving standard care.
The researchers speculate that "booster" counseling days after the accident was effective because the time lag gave patients time to realize the full impact of the accident. They concluded that the serious consequences of drunk driving, including injury to self and others, property damage, and insurance and legal claims, can motivate people to evaluate alcohol's effect on their lives and change behavior.