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Frost MC, Glass JE, Bradley KA, Williams EC. Documented brief intervention associated with reduced linkage to specialty addictions treatment in a national sample of VA patients with unhealthy alcohol use with and without alcohol use disorders. Addiction (Abingdon, England). 2020 Apr 1; 115(4):668-678.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Alcohol screening, brief intervention (BI) and referral to treatment is often considered stepped care, such that BI with referral links patients to treatment. A meta-analysis of randomized trials found no evidence that BI increases treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD). This study aimed to determine whether BI is associated with receipt of treatment for AUD among patients receiving BI as part of routine care. DESIGN: Regression analysis. SETTING: US Veterans Health Administration (VA), in which BI is supported by performance measurement and electronic clinical reminders. PARTICIPANTS: VA outpatients with positive Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test Consumption screens ( =  5) (n  =  830,825) documented nationally from 1 October 2009 to 30 May 2013. MEASUREMENTS: Regression models estimated the prevalence of receiving VA specialty addictions treatment within 0-365 days for patients with documented BI (advice to reduce/abstain within 0-14 days) compared to those without. Models clustered on patient and adjusted for demographics and mental health and substance use conditions were fit among all patients and stratified across documented past-year AUD diagnosis. Multiple secondary analyses assessed robustness of findings, including assessing repeated BI as a predictor. FINDINGS: Among 830,825 VA outpatients with unhealthy alcohol use (1,172,606 positive screens), documented BI was associated with lower likelihood of receiving VA specialty addictions treatment [adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR)  =  0.84, 95% confidence interval (CI)  =  0.83-0.84]. Associations were similar for those with and without AUD (aIRR  =  0.83, 95% CI  =  0.82-0.84 and aIRR  =  0.86, 95% CI  =  0.83-0.88, respectively) and in most secondary analyses. However, among patients without AUD, documentation of more than one BI was associated with greater likelihood of treatment relative to no BI (aIRR  =  1.75, 95% CI  =  1.68-1.83). CONCLUSIONS: In a national sample of US Veterans Health Administration patients with unhealthy alcohol use, documented brief intervention for alcohol use was associated with lower likelihood of receiving specialty addictions treatment regardless of alcohol use disorder diagnosis.

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