HSR&D Citation Abstract
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Bachrach RL, Blosnich JR, Williams EC. Alcohol screening and brief intervention in a representative sample of veterans receiving primary care services. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2018 Dec 1; 95:18-25.
Unhealthy alcohol use is common among adults, and in particular, Veterans. Routine alcohol screening followed by brief intervention is recommended and considered a prevention priority in primary care settings. While previous studies have found that Veterans enrolled in the Veteran's Health Administration (VA) receive high rates of screening and brief intervention, less than 50% of Veterans receive VA health care. No study has evaluated receipt of these services in a general sample of Veterans. Therefore, in a nationally-representative sample, we examine whether Veteran status was associated with receiving alcohol screening and brief intervention in primary care.
Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, we identified adults who endorsed visiting a doctor for routine checkup at least once in the past two years and responded to an optional module assessing alcohol-related care (N = 92,206; 14.1% Veterans). Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between Veteran status and screening and brief intervention outcomes. We also evaluate differences in alcohol-related care across Veteran status stratified by gender. Models were adjusted for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics likely to confound the association.
Overall, Veterans were more likely than non-Veterans to be screened for alcohol quantity and heavy episodic drinking (ps < 0.05), and more likely to endorse receiving brief intervention advice about alcohol's harmful effects (p < .001). Veteran status predicted an increased likelihood of being screened and receipt of advice about alcohol's harmful effects, but did not predict the likelihood of receiving advice to reduce or abstain from drinking (AOR = 1.00, 95% C.I. [0.80-1.26]). Analyses stratified by gender indicated a similar pattern of results for males as the overall sample. Results among females indicated Veteran status predicted the likelihood of being asked about heavy episodic drinking (AOR = 1.47, 95% C.I. [1.09-1.99]) and being offered advice about the harmful effects of alcohol (AOR = 1.62, 95% C.I. [1.06-2.48]). Female Veterans were not more likely than female non-Veterans to be advised to reduce and/or abstain from drinking.
Screening about any alcohol use was common while report of screening for quantity and heavy episodic drinking occurrence and report of brief intervention were less common. Veterans were more likely than non-Veterans to report receiving recommended care, though rates of advice to reduce or abstain from drinking did not differ across groups. Persistent gaps in delivery of recommended alcohol-related care, especially for particularly vulnerable subpopulations such as women Veterans, suggest a need for quality improvement.