Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) is commonly used as a diagnostic tool among healthcare professionals. But research suggests it is an effective intervention in its own right, reducing consumption to lower risk levels for one in eight higher risk drinkers.
The study, commissioned as part of the DoH's Alcohol Effects campaign, says some GPs may be underestimating the potential impact of IBA.
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: 'Many healthcare workers don't realise that IBA is for harmful drinkers even more effective than current interventions for smoking.'
He called on GPs to 'take every opportunity to reduce this preventable burden of health harm'.
Some healthcare professionals view IBA as a way to identify dependent drinkers, rather than it being aimed at all drinkers who are regularly drinking more than the NHS advises, a research survey said.
Dr Mike Knapton, a Cambridge GP and associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'Over nine million people in England drink more than is good for them, but many don't even realise that the way they drink could put their health at risk.'
He added: 'As we have seen with smoking, brief interventions, as part of a wider strategy, can have a significant impact on helping to raise awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol and in bringing about a change in behaviour.'
GPs' knowledge of the dangers that can be caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol is vital to this process, he added.
Reinforcing the positive effects GPs can have on a patient's health by talking to them about their drinking habits is also crucial, said Dr Knapton.
For more on the Alcohol Effects campaign, go to www.alcohollearningcentre.org.uk