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Two new articles on alcohol crossed my desk this month. One study analysed aggregate data on populations and environments in 1646 zip code areas in California. Neighbourhoods that had a higher density of “off-premise alcohol outlets”—liquor stores and other outlets that sell alcohol (rather than bars or restaurants that serve alcohol on the premises)—had more injuries among children, as documented through hospital discharge data. Previous work has associated a high density of alcohol outlets with violent injury and with homicides; this study included both intentional and unintentional injuries among children. Freisthler B, Gruenewald PJ, Ring L, et al. An ecological assessment of the population and environmental correlates of childhood accident, assault, and child abuse injuries. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2008;32:1969–75.
The second study examined data from almost 460 000 patients who were screened in various healthcare settings and then received brief intervention for alcohol and other drug use. Six months later, changes in drug use rates were tracked through follow-up. Not only had screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) decreased heavy alcohol use (by 38.6%), but also resulted in even greater decreases in use of illegal drugs (by 67.7%). Drug users in the six SBIRT programmes studied also reported fewer arrests, decreased homelessness, and fewer emotional problems. Smaller percentages reported …