All adults aged 18 years and older, including pregnant women, should be screened in primary care settings for unhealthy alcohol use and offered behavioral counseling if needed, according to recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Adults who meet the criteria for unhealthy alcohol use should be offered brief behavioral counseling interventions, the task force concluded with a B recommendation.
However, the task force also concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend screening for alcohol use in adolescents aged 12-17 years in primary care settings (an I statement), wrote, of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and colleagues. The were published in JAMA as an update of the USPSTF 2013 recommendation on screening for unhealthy alcohol use in primary care settings.
Approximately 88,000 deaths occurred each year in the United States between 2006 and 2010, the task force noted. Those deaths include death by acute causes, such as alcohol-related injuries, and chronic causes, such as alcoholic liver disease. In addition, alcohol use during pregnancy is a major preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, the task force wrote.
After reviewing the evidence, the USPSTF concluded that brief behavioral counseling offered moderate net benefits for adults 18 years and older, including pregnant women, who met criteria for unhealthy alcohol use.
Unhealthy alcohol used was defined as exceeding the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommended limits of 4 drinks per day, or 14 drinks per week, for men aged 21-64 years, and 3 drinks per day, or 7 drinks per week, for women aged 21-64 years.
In the evidence review accompanying the recommendations,, of Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., and colleagues analyzed data from 113 studies, including 314,466 individuals; 10 studies included adolescents.
In 68 studies including 36,528 individuals, brief counseling was associated with fewer drinks per week, fewer individuals exceeding recommended limits for alcohol consumption, fewer drinkers reporting a heavy drinking episode, and a greater proportion of pregnant women reporting alcohol abstinence after 6-12 months.
None of the studies assessed benefits or harms, but no evidence suggested that the interventions could be harmful.
The USPSTF is supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.
SOURCES: Curry S et al. ; O’Connor E et al. .