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Can a Brief Intervention After TBI Change a Person’s thoughts About Alcohol Use?

Categories: Substance Abuse

The Question

Can a brief intervention after traumatic brain injury (TBI) change the way persons with TBI think about alcohol and reduce problem alcohol use?

Past Studies

Past studies: Many studies have shown that persons with TBI who use alcohol have worse outcomes, such as more problems with thinking, lower rates of employment and lower life satisfaction. Researchers have looked at whether a brief intervention can reduce alcohol use. Intervention includes education regarding the negative effects of alcohol misuse and a guided conversation, called a ‘motivational interview’, to strengthen a person’s own desire to change. Brief intervention has been shown to reduce alcohol use in general trauma patients, but persons with more severe TBI were not included in those studies. We think that people who recently had a TBI may be ready to change alcohol use, called a ‘teachable moment’, and may benefit from a brief intervention. 

Current Study

This study looked at whether a 20-30 minute brief intervention (education and motivational interview) can change beliefs about the positive and negative effects of alcohol use and and reduce alcohol misuse among persons with TBI. Persons with TBI and self-reported prior problem substance use were recruited for the study at three centers once they emerged from post-traumatic amnesia. Persons in the study were selected by chance to receive either the intervention or standard of care (referral for at-risk patients); 104 persons completed follow-up interviews after three months. For persons with severe injury, persons who received the intervention were more likely to think that alcohol use would result in worse outcomes. The intervention did not affect other beliefs about effects of alcohol, readiness to change, or problem alcohol use. Persons who believe their injuries were caused by alcohol use were more likely to think that alcohol use would result in worse outcomes and, at one center, was associated with greater readiness to change.

Bottom line

Brief intervention can be useful to educate persons with severe TBI about the negative effect of alcohol use. In some settings, persons who believe their injuries were caused by alcohol use may be more ready to change their alcohol use.

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Find This Study

Sander, A.M., Bogner, J, Nick, T.G., Clark, A.N., Corrigan, J.D., Rozzell, M. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Intervention for Problem Alcohol Use in Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury. J Head Trauma Rehabil, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 319-330.

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