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Brief intervention in primary care

Substance Use Disorders: Early Intervention
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated September 2016.
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Patients in primary care are screened for "hazardous" alcohol and/or drug use (not dependence). Those screening positive receive a brief intervention. The intervention, commonly delivered by the primary care provider, includes feedback on the patients’ consumption compared to their peers and motivational interview to encourage reduction in consumption. Patients typically receive a single intervention lasting 15 minutes to one hour. Some interventions included up to two brief telephone booster calls.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $3,124 Benefits minus costs $8,301
Participants $2,188 Benefit to cost ratio $26.79
Others $2,287 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $1,024 benefits greater than the costs 55%
Total benefits $8,623
Net program cost ($322)
Benefits minus cost $8,301

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
38 9 1773 -0.155 0.073 39 n/a n/a n/a -0.155 0.033
38 7 519 -0.262 0.153 39 n/a n/a n/a -0.262 0.088
38 2 543 -0.307 0.284 39 n/a n/a n/a -0.307 0.279
38 2 784 -0.125 0.071 39 -0.017 0.107 41 -0.125 0.078
38 2 652 -0.261 0.332 39 -0.036 0.498 41 -0.261 0.432
38 48 7318 -0.195 0.024 39 -0.027 0.037 41 -0.195 0.001
38 4 249 -0.396 0.184 39 n/a n/a n/a -0.396 0.031
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Problem alcohol use Criminal justice system $0 $0 $3 $0 $3
Labor market earnings associated with problem alcohol use $872 $2,054 $0 $0 $2,925
Property loss associated with problem alcohol use $0 $4 $8 $0 $12
Mortality associated with problem alcohol $2 $6 $0 $60 $68
Hospitalization Health care associated with general hospitalization $2,130 $92 $2,100 $1,065 $5,387
Emergency department visits Health care associated with emergency department visits $120 $33 $177 $60 $389
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($161) ($161)
Totals $3,124 $2,188 $2,287 $1,024 $8,623
Click here to see populations selected
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $205 2000 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($322)
Comparison costs $0 2000 Cost range (+ or -) 20%
This program consists of a single brief intervention during a visit to the doctor. Per-participant cost from Fleming, M.F., Mundt, M.P., French, M.T., Manwell, L.B., Stauffacher, E.A. & Barry, K.L. (2002). Brief physician advice for problem drinkers: Long-term efficacy and benefit-cost analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 26(1), 36-43.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

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Anderson, P. & Scott, E. (1992). The effect of general practitioners' advice to heavy drinking men. British Journal of Addiction, 87, 891-900.

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Fleming, M.F., Manwell, L.B., Barry, K.L., Adams, W. & Stauffacher, E.A. (1999). Brief physician advice for alcohol problems in older adults: A randomized community-based trial. Journal of Family Practice, 48, 378-384.

Fleming, M.F., Barry, K.L., Manwell, L.B., Johnson, K. & London, R. (1997). Brief physician advice for problem alcohol drinkers: A randomized controlled trial in community-based primary care practices. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277, 1039-1045.

Fleming, M.F., Mundt, M.P., French, M.T., Manwell, L.B., Stauffacher, E.A. & Barry, K.L. (2002). Brief physician advice for problem drinkers: Long-term efficacy and benefit-cost analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 26(1), 36-43.

Fleming, M., Brown, R., & Brown, D. (2004). The efficacy of a brief alcohol intervention combined with CDT feedback in patients being treated for type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 65(5), 631-7.

Fleming, M.F., Lund, M.R., Wilton, G., Landry, M., & Scheets, D. (2008). The healthy moms study: The efficacy of brief alcohol intervention in postpartum women. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(9), 1600-6.

Fleming, M. F., Balousek, S. L., Grossberg, P. M., Mundt, M. P., Brown, D., Wiegel, J. R., Zakletskaia, L. I., . . . Saewyc, E. M. (2010). Brief physician advice for heavy drinking college students: a randomized controlled trial in college health clinics. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71(1), 23-31.

Freeborn, D. K., Polen, M. R., Hollis, J. F., & Senft, R. A. (2000). Screening and brief intervention for hazardous drinking in an HMO: effects on medical care utilization. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 27(4), 446-53.

Gelberg, L., Andersen, R. M., Afifi, A.A., Leake, B.D., Arangua, L., Vahidi, M., Singleton, K., . . . Baumeister, S.E. (2015). Project QUIT (Quit Using Drugs Intervention Trial): a randomized controlled trial of a primary care-based multi-component brief intervention to reduce risky drug use. Addiction, 110(11), 1777-1790.

Grossberg, P.M., Brown, D.D. & Fleming, M.F. (2004). Brief Physician Advice for High-Risk Drinking Among Young Adults. Annals of Family Medicine, 2(5), 474-480.

Heather, N., Campion, P.D., Neville, R.G., & Maccabe, D. (1987). Evaluation of a controlled drinking minimal intervention for problem drinkers in general practice (The DRAMS scheme). Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 37(301), 358-363.

Humeniuk, R., Ali, R., Babor, T., Souza-Formigoni, M.L.O., de, L.R.B., Ling, W., McRee, B., . . . Vendetti, J. (2012). A randomized controlled trial of a brief intervention for illicit drugs linked to the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) in clients recruited from primary health-care settings in four countries. Addiction, 107(5), 957-966.

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Kaner, E., Newbury-Birch, D., Bland, M., Coulton, S., Godfrey, C., Parrott, S., Cassidy, P., . . . Shepherd, J. (2013). Effectiveness of screening and brief alcohol intervention in primary care (SIPS trial): Pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial. Bmj, 346, 7892.

Kristenson, H., Ohlin, H., Hulten-Nosslin, M.B., Trell, E., & Hood, B. (1983). Identification and intervention of heavy drinking in middle-aged men: Results and follow-up of 24-60 months of long-term study with randomized controls. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 7, 203-209.

Kypri, K., Saunders, J.B., Williams, S.M., McGee, R.O., Langley, J.D., Cashell-Smith, M.L., & Gallagher, S.J. (2004). Web-based screening and brief intervention for hazardous drinking: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Addiction, 99, 11.

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Maisto, S.A., Conigliaro, J., McNeil, M., Kraemer, K., Conigliaro, R. L., & Kelley, M. E. (2001). Effects of two types of brief intervention and readiness to change on alcohol use in hazardous drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(5), 605-614.

Manwell, L.B., Fleming, M.F., Mundt, M.P., Staffacher, E.A., & Barry, K.L., (2000). Treatment of problem alcohol use in women of childbearing age: Results of a brief intervention trial. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 24(10), 1517-1524.

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