Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Alcohol Screening


The Issue: Excessive Drinking and Injuries

When people drink too much, they increase the chances that they’ll injure themselves and others. In fact,  excessive drinking is the leading risk factor for injury in the United States and the third leading cause of preventable death, accounting for more than 75,000 deaths annually – that’s one death every 7 minutes.

Broadening our Impact: Redefining the Problem

The problem extends beyond the 4% of the U.S. population that is addicted to alcohol. Another 25% of the population also drinks in excess, but is not addicted. Both groups are at significant risk for becoming injured. The drinking patterns of both groups contribute to the significant alcohol-related mortality burden in the United States.

To reduce alcohol-related injuries and deaths, public health strategies must engage both groups, that is, all people who drink too much. For more than a decade, CDC’s Injury Center has supported research and training in alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI), a process to identify patients who drink too much and to provide brief, onsite counseling.

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI)

CDC has worked with emergency departments and trauma centers to implement SBI. By uniformly screening all incoming patients, they can identify those who engage in risky drinking behaviors, and provide them with brief counseling onsite. Positive research results—reduced medical costs and hospital readmissions—led the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (COT) to require all Level I trauma centers to use SBI.

Trauma centers care for patients who are severely injured—many patients were injured because they or someone else drank too much. This makes trauma centers ideal settings for providing SBI to those who need it, and brief interventions delivered in trauma centers and emergency departments have been shown to reduce alcohol-related risky behaviors.

Research Results

  • Screening and Brief Interventions for Alcohol in Trauma Centers Saves Lives – A study from a CDC-funded injury research center showed that each dollar invested in SBI was returned almost four-fold, $3.81, through savings of overall healthcare costs.
  • A research trial of SBI demonstrated lowered health care costs and reduced readmissions to trauma, emergency department, and hospitals by 50%.
  • SBI has been shown to significantly decrease drinks consumed per week and the number of binge drinking episodes.


How much is too much?

 Learn more about "low-risk" and "heavy"drinking , and evaluate your drinking pattern at the web site for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).




Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA
    30329-4027 USA
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
  • Page last reviewed: December 29, 2009
  • Page last updated: October 4, 2011 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO