New Studies Suggest Counseling for 'Risky' Drinkers

Short counseling sessions will reduce alcohol consumption in risky drinkers, studies show.

New studies show that “risky” drinking-- more than four drinks per day for men and more than three drinks per day for women-- can be reduced with brief, regular counseling sessions. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group specializing in preventative research, recently held 10 separate studies investigating the benefits of counseling for these risky drinkers, which they claim encompasses about one in every three individuals in the United States. The group found that participants who, throughout the year, had many counseling sessions ranging from ten to fifteen minutes were 12 percent more likely to give up risky drinking for moderate consumption in the following year. The panel also determined that alcohol consumption in patients was reduced from an average of twenty-three to nineteen drinks per week after counseling.

Though they agree the results aren’t earth-shattering, the group believes it calls for a new system of screening which will enable doctors to identify individuals exhibiting signs of risky drinking and encourage counseling. The hope is that, with more rigorous screening in place, many risky drinkers will see moderate benefits through counseling and learn to maintain a healthier level of drinking. Heavier drinkers, however, may not receive the same benefits seen in mere risky drinkers and may require even greater measures to see improvement, they say.

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The draft of their proposal is currently available for public comment.