Alcoholism & Addiction

Study Examines Effectiveness of Hospital Stays in Treating Alcohol-Related Illnesses

Hospitalization for those with a drinking problem is often assumed to be a proper course of action to help decrease alcoholism. While this is viewed as an opportunity to take advantage of a teachable moment, studies examining the practice have not always found decreases in drinking as a result of these stays.

According to a recent Science Daily release, study findings exploring the relationship between hospital stays and alcohol-related illnesses show that focusing on these illnesses may actually make hospital interventions more effective.

Emily C. Williams, research project director at the VA Puget Sounds Health Care System and corresponding author of the study noted that the qualities of “teachable moments” are complicated.

"On one hand, it may be the first time that a patient realizes that their drinking is responsible for a very serious illness or event requiring acute hospital care," she said.

"On the other hand, there are people who continue to drink heavily despite knowing the consequences associated with it. For the former group, hospitalization may serve as a strong impetus of change whereas, for the latter group, hospitalization may be met with a neutral attitude (or worse) toward change."

In recruiting 341 adult medical inpatients from a university medical center who self-reported risky drinking during the previous month, researchers examined their initial hospital screening. Participants were then enrolled in a randomized trial of brief alcohol counseling and interviews were conducted at enrollment and three months after hospitalization.

Researchers found that among inpatients with unhealthy alcohol use whose drinking is less severe, alcohol-attributable illness may serve as a strong catalyst of changes in drinking. At the same time, alcohol-attributable illnesses could become a focus of hospital-based brief counseling interventions.

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