Aim - To evaluate the effectiveness of different brief intervention strategies at reducing hazardous or harmful drinking in the probation setting. Offender managers were randomized to three interventions, each of which built on the previous one: feedback on screening outcome and a client information leaflet control group, 5 min of structured brief advice and 20 min of brief lifestyle counselling.
Methods - A pragmatic multicentre factorial cluster randomized controlled 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 utilization, 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.