Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

IIR 06-058 – HSR Study

IIR 06-058
Primary Care Based Disease Management for Alcohol Dependence
David W. Oslin, MD
Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia, PA
Funding Period: July 2007 - March 2011
Data suggest that primary care may be a key component in the identification of alcohol dependent patients, the delivery of initial interventions, and the success of addiction treatment. Yet most alcohol dependent individuals are not engaged in treatment despite screening efforts.

The primary aims of this proposal were to test the effectiveness of a primary care based Alcohol Care Management (ACM) program and to evaluate the barriers and facilitators to accessing and engaging individuals who are alcohol dependent into treatment. The ACM program uses a Behavioral Health Specialist to deliver care focused on the use of pharmacotherapy in combination with psychosocial support (Medication Management). The main hypothesis was that a significantly greater proportion of patients with alcohol dependence assigned to ACM would obtain improvement in drinking outcomes (reduction in rates of relapse across time) compared to usual care.

Primary care patients who scored >7 on the AUDIT-C and who were not engaged in specialty MH/SA care in the prior 12 months were identified and approached for research participation. Patients who consented completed an initial assessment including treatment barriers and attitudes about treatment, and a clinical assessment. Participants who consented to treatment (n=163) were randomly assigned to referral to existing alcohol specialty care (n=77) or to enrollment in ACM (n=86). Treatment was offered for up to 6 months in the ACM arm. Consenting patients, including those who refused treatment, were assessed for engagement, meeting of quality care indicators, and alcohol use at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

Our initial pass at secondary outcomes for drinking suggest heavy drinking days may be less in the primary care treatment compared to usual care. This is likely related to higher engagement rates. Abstinence also favors primary care but is not significant.

Despite the availability of efficacious treatments, fewer than 20% of individuals with alcohol dependence are actively engaged in treatment. Screening was implemented within the VA system to identify patients with both abuse and dependence in order to increase access to specialty care. Data indicate that, among those individuals screened in primary care who have AUDIT-C scores of >7, only 29% are formally evaluated/referred. Of those assessed and referred to specialty care, only 60% attend an initial visit and only 33% meet the EPRP performance measure of 2 visits per month for 90 days.

Demonstration that ACM leads to improved access, engagement, and outcomes for alcohol dependent individuals would provide greater capacity to deliver a spectrum of care that includes brief interventions, ACM, outpatient specialty care, and residential care. Early results underscore access issues as important. Thus, ACM would be viewed as one component of a wider array of services than is currently available to alcohol dependent patients. ACM would be a model program for providing integrated care in primary care settings as required in the Uniform Services Handbook for Mental Health Services.

External Links for this Project

Dimensions for VA

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

Learn more about Dimensions for VA.

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
    Search Dimensions for this project


None at this time.

DRA: Substance Use Disorders, Health Systems
DRE: Treatment - Observational, Treatment - Efficacy/Effectiveness Clinical Trial
Keywords: Alcohol, Behavior (patient)
MeSH Terms: none

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.