The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has released The Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol (HPCR) to help clinicians integrate evidence-based care for alcohol use disorder (AUD) into their practice.1
Alcohol contributes to more than 200 health conditions and nearly 100,000 deaths in the United States each year — with a 25% increase in the number of deaths involving alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic (between 2019 and 2020), according to data recently reported in JAMA.2 The increase was found in all age groups but was particularly marked among those aged 35 to 44 years (40%) and 25 to 34 years (37%).
The increase in alcohol-related deaths reflect hidden tolls of the pandemic, noted Aaron M. White, PhD, a coauthor of the JAMA study. “Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, shifting alcohol policies, and disrupted treatment access are all possible contributing factors,” the authors wrote. “Whether alcohol-related deaths will decline as the pandemic wanes, and whether policy changes could help reduce such deaths, warrants consideration.”
What NPs/PAs Can Do
Although many health care professionals ask patients about their drinking, few use validated clinicians use screening tools for AUD or follow-up with an assessment and brief intervention, and some may not be aware of evidence-based treatment options, according to the NIAAA. Additionally, less than 10% of people aged 18 and older with alcohol use disorder received any treatment in the past year, and less than 2% receive US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved AUD medications.
“We want health care professionals to know 3 things about evidence-based alcohol care: that it is important, that they can do it, and that it’s easy,” said Raye Litten, PhD, who is codeveloper of the HPCR and director of the NIAAA Division of Treatment and Recovery. “They can quickly screen, provide a diagnosis, give advice, prescribe FDA-approved medications, and give referrals to a specialist if the case is severe.”
The HPCR is built around 14 user-friendly, practical overview articles designed to address common barriers to alcohol-related health care by providing:
- Quick, validated alcohol screening and assessment tools to evaluate drinking levels and AUD symptoms
- How to conduct a brief intervention
- Evidence-based treatment options
- Strategies for making referrals
- Clarity on what constitutes heavy drinking, AUD severity levels, and recovery
- Information about the medical complications of alcohol misuse and the interactions of alcohol with other drugs and medications
- Steps to reduce stigma surrounding alcohol-related problems and encourage greater patient acceptance of alcohol treatment when needed
The HPCR also offers links for clinical practice from professional organizations as well as deeper dives into emerging alcohol research topics via videos and review articles by NIAAA staff and grantees.
1. New NIAAA resource helps healthcare professionals provide better alcohol-related care. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. September 8, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://niaaa.scienceblog.com/415/new-niaaa-resource-helps-healthcare-professionals-provide-better-alcohol-related-care/
2. White AM, Castle JP, Powell PA, Hingson RW, Koob GF. Alcohol-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA. 2022;327(17):1704-1706. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.4308