A new research paper from the Medical Council on Alcohol explores the effectiveness of intervention strategies at reducing harmful drinking in the probation setting, through the use of a randomised control trial.
Below is an Abstract of the full article, which calls for more research to be undertaken to determine the effectiveness of brief interventions on this group of service users within probation.
The Council (which includes Prof. Jonathan Shepherd, left) illustrate the prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking in connection with violent crime, whilst acknowledging the complexities of defining the relationship between the two, with wide range of contributing external factors that render addressing alcohol abuse problematic.
The article seeks to address the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol screening and brief interventions in the criminal justice setting, as opposed to the range of evidence available in the health field.
Aim: To evaluate the effectiveness of different brief intervention strategies at reducing hazardous or harmful drinking in the probation setting. Offender managers were randomised to three interventions, each of which built on the previous one: feedback on screening outcome and a client information control group, 5 minutes of structured brief advice and 20 minutes of brief lifestyle counselling.
Methods: A pragmatic multicentre factorial cluster randomised control trial. The primary outcome was self-reported hazardous or harmful drinking status measured by Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) at 6 months (negative status was a score of <8). Secondary outcomes were AUDIT status at 12 months, experience of alcohol-related problems, health utility, service utilisation, readiness to change and reduction in conviction rates.
Results: Follow-up rates were 68% at 6 months and 60% at 12 months. At both time points, there was no significant advantage of more intensive interventions compared with the control group in terms of AUDIT status. Those in the brief advice and brief lifestyle counselling intervention groups were statistically significantly less likely to reoffend (36 and 38% respectively) than those in the client information leaflet group (50%) in the year following intervention.
Conclusion: Brief advice or brief lifestyle counselling provided no additional benefit in reducing hazardous or harmful drinking compared with feedback on screening outcome and a client information leaflet. The impact of more intensive brief intervention on reoffending warrants further research.
The full article: “Alcohol Screening and Brief Interventions for Offenders in the Probation Setting (SIPS Trial): a Pragmatic Multicentre Cluster Randomized Control Trial” (D. Newbury-Birch et al., 2014) is available to download at http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/ Contact Dorothy Newbury-Birch at Dorothy.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.