The consumption of alcohol has been a major problem in healthcare for many years. Numerous studies have linked alcohol to most of the lifestyle diseases and social and psychological challenges, including domestic violence and child abuse. Therefore, alcohol is detrimental to the wellbeing of the individual and the society as a whole. While there may be available options in terms of an intervention to reduce the rate of alcohol consumption, there is a need to assert the role of an interference strategy and its actual efficiency for the patients. The facts prove that the effectiveness of a brief alcohol intervention is dependent upon the situation, in which it is applied. Therefore, while practicing an intervention on an inpatient may be considerably easier, a primary care patient may also be as responsive to the intervention depending on their specific context. Most of the patients in the interference case were frequent in the emergency room after getting into fights under the influence of alcohol. The current paper provides a critique to the evidence-based study on the effects of alcohol consumption on the society.
The Target Behavior: Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption is a social challenge because it affects the adequate behavior and wellbeing of the individual in question, as well as persons around him or her. People who develop a habit of indulging in alcohol consumption on a regular basis tend to suffer numerous challenges, including a poor health and very bad relationships with others. The reasons are that once the patients are under the influence of alcohol, they lose control and embrace a different personality, which in most cases is not appealing to the society. An individual who is under the influence of alcohol is also likely to make numerous bad decisions that may in the long-term affect not only their lives, but also of the people around them, and thus the society as a whole. The destructive behavior was measured in terms of drinks per week, with the definition of a ‘drink’ being limited to anything that has an alcoholic content higher than 1% (Bingham et el., 2011). The unit of measurement was used because most of the patients claimed to only indulge in alcohol irregularly during the week. Thus, they were unable to give an average number of drinks that they have per day. However, they consumed alcohol at some point each week, with the weekends being the most tempting time for getting a drink. Regarding the duration of the intervention, it was noted from the literature that the most effective interventions were able to record impressive results within 6 to 12 months. Therefore, reducing alcohol consumption is a long-term program that would require patience to achieve measurable results and succeed in Effective Healthcare Program (2012). In this case however, the goal is to reduce the consumption of alcohol amongst the target patients. Consequently, the observed intervention was given 3 days, spread out from the start to the end of the program in order to establish any positive trends in the sample population.
Effective Healthcare Program (2012) investigated the efficacy of brief alcohol intervention within primary care settings and found that the results could be seen in 6 to 12 months. The study focused on patients, who were not seeking help for their alcohol related problems. The main aim of the intervention was to reduce the alcohol-associated risk for the patient, which affect their life. In the study, the authors found that with an intervention program, the patients were able to reduce their alcohol consumption by an average of four drinks per week. The outcome is quite remarkable, especially since the patients were not specifically seeking help for their alcohol-related tendencies.
National Center for PTSD (2014) also studied how patients in primary care can receive help with their drinking problems. They found that with stepped care, most patients are likely to improve their lives significantly without having to be committed into complex interventions like rehabilitation or even medication. In many cases, a close supervision and motivation were sufficient strategies to change the patients significantly within six months of the intervention. However, a limited intervention was found to have little positive impact on the patients. Thus, an intervention must be thorough and consistent in order to achieve any significant results.
The most popular solution to alcohol abuse in primary health care is brief interventions. A brief intervention is simply a method of motivating the patient to quit their bad habits in order to make their life better. The key concept here is communicating about how the target behavior is increasing the patient health and social risk. At first, most patients feel bothered but with the repeated practice, they start seeing the truth about their habits and thus decide to change in order to stay healthy. In the current case, the intervention took place in a private setting with the practitioners incorporating the brief intervention practice into the patient’s applicable primary care routine. Then the patients were allowed to do some self-reporting on their progress, while on the intervention program.
The expected observation was a significant reduction in the number of alcoholic drinks taken per week. There was no expectation that the patients would entirely stop drinking alcohol. At the same time, the study was based on the assumption that upon completion of the brief intervention program, some of the patients would redefine their priorities and choose to stay healthy and safe. Moreover, they would avoid drinking and creating health risks for themselves. The change process was expected to be slow but steady, with a few challenges occasionally; and stable result in the end. The observation took place in three phases. The first phase was on the eighth week, followed by the sixteenth week and finally the twenty fourth week of the program. The aim was to evaluate the progress the patients were making during the intervention.
The first results did not bring measurable outcomes in terms of observable changes. After 7 weeks in the program, most of the patients were still grappling with the information that they were receiving regarding the impact of alcohol on their lives and the society (Effective Healthcare Program, 2012). They were occasionally indulging in their alcohol-related habits, although some level of caution could be noticed. One of the patients had already started limiting the alcohol consumption to the weekends, and another one was only drinking wine with dinner and not with every meal, as previously reported. In the second phase of the observation, the patients all reported a lower number of drinks taken per week. Before the intervention, the average number was 15 drinks per week, but during the second stage of observation the average was at 12. In the third phase, the patients were only drinking an average of 10 drinks per week. The quantity may not be a significant reduction but it implies progress in the decrease of a harmful habit. The patients continue drinking alcohol, but they are more aware of the effects and thus try as much as possible to limit their consumption. Generally, the observation during the intervention program shows that involvement strategies are a slow but steady process. Moreover, with the attention and persistence, they are effective in reducing the risks that the patients expose themselves to through alcohol intake (Help Guide Organization, 2015).
Figure 1:Graph showing the trend of alcohol consumption amongst the patients before and during intervention
Studies show that the effective interventions are able to register good results after about 6 months (Help Guide Organization, 2015). However, the current project only had two weeks for observing the patients and establishing whether or not they were changing their habits. The effectiveness of the intervention is thus not fully captured, meaning that the trends may define clearly later in the intervention program. Also, the patients in the evaluated program are from one health facility. Thus, they do not represent a wide population. The results may not be replicable in other parts of the world as evidenced by the other studies (Centers for Disease Consumption and Prevention, 2014). In addition, the research relied mainly on the self-reporting of the patients to ascertain that they were improving with the intervention. Thus, there was no way of telling whether the self-assessment was honest or doctored to save face. Another limitation is that the study employed only 25 participants, and only 23 stayed with the intervention program to the sixth month. The sample population is rather small, and the results cannot be generalized on a large scale. While the outcomes were reliable for the particular context, there may be other unmentioned factors that make the results unique to the health care facility in question.
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Brief interventions are often considered important in medical practice because they offer an opportunity for the patients to take better care of their bodies by understanding the habits that put them at risk. In the case of alcohol consumption, understanding the effects of alcohol on the body is a good way to motivate the patients to reduce their liquor consumption to a manageable and considerably healthy level. In most cases, the long-term outcomes are possible with patience and consistence, since the results will only be seen after at least 6 months of the program. With the long-term commitment, the patients may even be able to stop indulging in alcohol completely, since they will be informed regarding the mechanisms of the body as related to alcohol.