Effect of a Novel Brief Motivational Intervention for Alcohol-Intoxicated Young Adults in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Jacques Gaume, Nicolas Bertholet, Jim McCambridge, Molly Magill, Angéline Adam, Olivier Hugli, Jean-Bernard Daeppen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


IMPORTANCE: Heavy drinking among young adults is a major public health concern. Brief motivational interventions in the emergency department have shown promising but inconsistent results.

OBJECTIVE: To test whether young adults receiving a newly developed brief motivational intervention reduce their number of heavy drinking days and alcohol-related problems over 1 year compared with participants receiving brief advice.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This randomized clinical trial was conducted at an emergency department of a tertiary care university hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. Recruitment ran from December 2016 to August 2019. Follow-up was conducted after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. All adults aged 18 to 35 years presenting for any cause and presenting with alcohol intoxication were eligible (N = 2108); 1764 were excluded or refused participation. Follow-up rate was 79% at 12 months and 89% of participants provided follow-up data at least once and were included in the primary analyses. Statistical analysis was performed from September 2020 to January 2021.

INTERVENTIONS: The novel intervention was based on motivational interviewing and comprised in-person discussion in the emergency department and up to 3 booster telephone calls. The control group received brief advice.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Primary outcomes were the number of heavy drinking days (at least 60 g of ethanol) over the previous month and the total score on the Short Inventory of Problems (0-45, higher scores indicating more problems) over the previous 3 months. Hypotheses tested were formulated before data collection.

RESULTS: There were 344 young adults included (median [IQR] age: 23 [20-28] years; 84 women [24.4%]). Among the 306 participants providing at least 1 follow-up point, a statistically significant time × group interaction was observed (β = -0.03; 95% CI, -0.05 to 0.00; P = .02), and simple slopes indicated an increase of heavy drinking days over time in the control (β = 0.04; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.05; P < .001) but not in the intervention group (β = 0.01; 95% CI, -0.01 to 0.03; P = .24). There was no effect on the Short Inventory of Problems score (β = -0.01; 95% CI, -0.03 to 0.02; P = .71).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This randomized clinical trial found that a brief motivational intervention implemented in the emergency department provided beneficial effects on heavy drinking, which accounts for a substantial portion of mortality and disease burden among young adults.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN registry: 13832949.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2237563
Number of pages14
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • Young Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication/therapy
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders/therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Ethanol

Cite this