Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 181, Issue 2, pp 165–170 | Cite as

Alcohol screening and brief intervention among drug users in primary care: a discussion paper

  • C. A. Field
  • J. KlimasEmail author
  • J. Barry
  • G. Bury
  • E. Keenan
  • S. Lyons
  • B. P. Smyth
  • W. Cullen
Review Article



Problem alcohol use is common among problem drug users (PDU) and associated with adverse health outcomes. Primary care has an important role in the overall stepped approach to alcohol treatment, especially screening and brief intervention (SBI).


To discuss three themes that emerged from an exploration of the literature on SBI for problem alcohol use in drug users attending primary care.


Material for this discussion paper was gathered from three biomedical databases (PubMed, PsycINFO and Cochrane library), conference proceedings and online resources of professional organisations or national health agencies.


Themes discussed in this paper are: (a) the potential of primary care for delivery of alcohol SBIs to PDUs, (b) screening methods and (c) application of brief interventions to PDUs.


Although SBI improves health outcomes associated with problem alcohol use in the general population, further research is needed among high-risk patient groups, especially PDUs.


Problem alcohol use Primary care Screening and brief intervention Problem drug use 



Authors wish to thank colleagues from University College Dublin: Davina Swan, Sarah Finnegan, Brendan Rooney, Aisling O’ Dwyer-O’ Brien, Louise Dolphin, Carly Cheevers, Lynn McKeague and Eilis Hennessy, for their insightful comments and feedback. This discussion paper has been prepared as part of a research project funded by Health Research Board Ireland (2009-12): ‘Towards optimum care of problematic alcohol use among patients with opiate dependency: a qualitative study from two perspectives.’

Conflict of interest

The authors acknowledge that they have no conflict of interests regarding this study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Field
    • 1
  • J. Klimas
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • J. Barry
    • 2
    • 3
  • G. Bury
    • 1
  • E. Keenan
    • 4
  • S. Lyons
    • 5
  • B. P. Smyth
    • 2
    • 4
  • W. Cullen
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.UCD School of Medicine and Medical ScienceCoombe Healthcare CentreDublin 8Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Public Health and Primary CareTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Public HealthHealth Services ExecutiveDublinIreland
  4. 4.Addiction Services, Health Services ExecutiveDublinIreland
  5. 5.Health Research BoardDublin 2Ireland
  6. 6.Faculty of Education and Health Sciences, Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

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