New Technologies Used to Reduce Excessive Drinking

A finger touching the screen of a tablet computerThe Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force), an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts, recommends electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) as an effective intervention to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems, based on strong evidence of effectiveness. Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 80,000 deaths each year (CDC, 2012a) and costs the U.S. economy $223.5 billion in 2006 (Bouchery et al., 2011). Task Force recommendations and other findings are available at The Community Guide website.

What is electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) for excessive alcohol use?

Traditional screening and brief intervention (SBI) to reduce excessive alcohol consumption consists of assessing patients’ drinking patterns, followed by providing those who screen positive for excessive drinking with face-to-face feedback about its risks, and a short conversation about changing their drinking patterns, including referral to treatment if appropriate.

Electronic screening and brief intervention to reduce excessive alcohol consumption uses electronic devices (e.g., computers, telephones, or mobile devices) to facilitate delivery of key elements of traditional SBI. At a minimum, e-SBI involves screening individuals for excessive drinking, and delivering a brief intervention, which provides personalized feedback about the risks and consequences of excessive drinking.

Why is this important?

Excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States (Mokdad et al., 2004); an average of about 30 years of potential life is lost for each death (CDC, 2012a). Drinking too much is also a risk factor for many health and social problems, including motor-vehicle crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome. Most people who drink too much are not alcohol dependent, but may still need counseling (CDC, 2012b).

Excessive alcohol use is too rarely addressed with patients by their clinical care providers (Yanall et al., 2003; Spandorfer et al., 1999; Rush et al., 1995), yet e-SBI can help identify individuals who are binge drinkers and reduce potential barriers to doing so. e-SBI has the potential to be cost-saving, requires less provider time and training than traditional SBI, and does not have to occur in the clinical setting. These factors make it easier to implement and sustain the clinical preventive service to screen and intervene to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

The Task Force and The Community Guide

The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is an essential resource for people who want to know what works in public health. It provides evidence-based recommendations and findings about public health interventions and policies to improve health and promote safety.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel whose members are appointed by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Task Force bases its findings and recommendation on systematic reviews of the scientific literature. With oversight from the Task Force, scientists and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct these reviews in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners. The reviews and the Task Force findings and recommendations are compiled in The Community Guide.

For More Information

Click on the following links to learn more about this topic.


Bouchery EE, Harwood HJ, Sacks JJ, Simon CJ, Brewer RD. Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States, 2006. Am J Prev Med 2011(41):516 24.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI). Atlanta (GA): 2012a. Available at URL:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Health. Atlanta (GA): 2012b. Available at URL:

Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA 2004;291(10):1238 45.

Rush BR, Powell LY, Crowe TG, Ellis K. Early intervention for alcohol use: family physicians’ motivations and perceived barriers. Canadian Med Assoc J – Journal de l’Association Medicale Canadienne 1995;152(6):863-9.

Spandorfer JM, Israel Y, Turner BJ. Primary care physicians’ views on screening and management of alcohol abuse: inconsistencies with national guidelines. J Fam Prac 1999;48(11):899-902.

Yanall KS, Pollak KI, Ostbye T, Krause KM, Michener JL. Primary care: is there enough time for prevention? Am J Pub Health 2003;93(4):635-41.

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