Cost-effectiveness analysis of a brief intervention delivered to problem drinkers presenting at an inner-city hospital emergency department

F. Michael Kunz, Michael T. French, Shahrzad Bazargan-Hejazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Objective: Alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI) has gained widespread acceptance as an effective method for reducing problem drinking in at-risk populations. This study examines the cost and cost-effectiveness of an SBI pilot program delivered in an innercity hospital emergency department (ED) to a traditionally underserved population. Method: A total of 1,036 subjects were screened for problem drinking during their visit to an ED. Eligible participants (N= 294) were randomly assigned to either a brief intervention group or a control group. As the result of attrition, a final sample of 194 (90 brief intervention; 104 control) participants remained at follow-up. The intervention consisted of a brief counseling session and a health information packet. The control group received only the packet. Intervention cost data were collected and analyzed using the Drug Abuse Treatment Cost Analysis Program. Selected outcomes at the 3-month follow-up included the raw Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test score, average weekly number of drinks and engaging in heavy drinking in the past month (>6 drinks on one occasion for men, >4 for women). Outcome differences between the intervention and control groups were estimated with both bivariate and multivariate techniques. Results: The average economic cost of the brief intervention was $632 per subject, of which screening ($497) was the largest component. In all cases, intervention subjects had better 3-month outcomes than control subjects, but the differences were not always statistically significant. Cost-effectiveness ratios were relatively small for all three outcomes, suggesting this type of intervention has the potential to be cost-effective under full implementation. Conclusions: The preliminary results demonstrate the potential advantage of further research in this area with larger samples and a longer follow-up period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-370
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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