Aims: To review the evidence on the effect of brief interventions (BIs) for alcohol among adults with risky alcohol consumption and comorbid mental health conditions.
Methods: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published before May 2016 was undertaken and reported according to PRISMA guidelines. The findings were combined in a narrative synthesis. The risk of bias was assessed for included trials.
Results: Seventeen RCTs were included in the review and narrative synthesis: 11 in common mental health problems, and 6 in severe mental illness. There was considerable heterogeneity in study populations, BI delivery mode and intensity, outcome measures and risk of bias. Where BI was compared with a minimally active control, BI was associated with a significant reduction in alcohol consumption in four out of nine RCTs in common mental disorders and two out of five RCTs in severe mental illness. Where BI was compared with active comparator groups (such as motivational interviewing or cognitive behavioural therapy), findings were also mixed. Differences in the findings may be partly due to differences in study design, such as the intensity of BI and possibly the risk of bias.
Conclusions: Overall, the evidence is mixed regarding the effects of alcohol BI in participants with comorbid mental health conditions. Future well-designed research is required to answer this question more definitively.