At a time when the concept of government mandating health insurance in the US is under debate, a new government directive in the UK has physicians advising their patients to stop excessive consumption of alcohol.
The current question in the UK is how best to give this advice?
A new study published online in the journal Addiction looked at prior clinical trials to learn about the methods that were used to reduce drinking across the different studies.
Among the many different components of the advice, such as providing information on the harms of excessive drinking, trying to boost motivation and self-confidence, and advising on avoidance of social cues for drinking, they found that the most effective piece of advice was to encourage the patient to monitor his or her alcohol consumption, typically by keeping a daily record.
Lead author Susan Michie explains why self-monitoring is such helpful advice:
“In brief interventions, it’s important to advise people how to reduce their drinking rather than just saying they ought to drink less. Getting patients to record how much alcohol they drink each day provides a concrete, easy task that raises their awareness of their behavior and how well they are doing in staying within limits that they set themselves.
“This may seem like common sense but common sense needs to be supported by hard evidence for it to be acted upon in official policies.”
The finding that keeping a “drinking diary” reduces imbibing is similar to the well-proven and successful dietary strategy that has an individual write down everything they may eat in a day.