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Alcohol Treatment Guidelines: Overview of Recommendations



An overview of recommendations from the Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Alcohol Problems was recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). The supplementary document to the main guidelines presents a number of recommendations designed to improve current practices for the prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders.

The recommendations outlined in the report cover on key areas that include screening and assessment for alcohol use disorders, as well as a wider context (e.g., mental health, physical health and social problems).

It is important to recognize that substance use disorders do not occur in a vacuum; there are a number of factors which influence an individuals decision to consume alcohol and other drugs at risky levels. Equipping health professionals with the tools to identify and respond early to problematic substance use is key to preventing escalating harm. Relatedly, given polysubstance use is recognized as a growing public health concern, particularly in the COVID-19 era, the recommendations also encourage the use of ASSIST to screen for other concurrent drug use.

The recommendations also provide information about the potential effectiveness of brief and psychosocial interventions, including motivational interviewing (MI). MI is the foundation of ASSIST-Linked brief intervention – and focuses on building an individual’s willingness and capacity to change their behaviour. The report suggests that brief motivational interviewing interventions are more effective than no-treatment – and that effectiveness varies by treatment setting, with the strongest evidence for effectiveness found within primary care. MI was also suggested to demonstrate a moderately strong weight of evidence for effectiveness for risky alcohol use, particularly among those at earlier stages of dependence.

Taken together, these findings reiterate the importance of SBIRT for alcohol and other substance use disorders, and provide clear and strong support for the use of ASSIST within the regular screening and assessment process. Elsewhere, the recommendations also focus on a number of other areas, including vulnerable populations, comorbid mental and physical health disorders and dealing with relapse.


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You can also read the full report here