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Early intervention

A therapeutic strategy that combines early detection of hazardous or harmful substance use and treatment of those involved. Treatment is offered or provided before such time as patients might present of their own volition, and in many cases before they are aware that their substance use might cause problems. It is directed particularly at individuals who have not developed physical dependence or major psychosocial complications. Early intervention is therefore a pro-active approach, which is initiated by the health worker rather than the patient. The first stage consists of a systematic procedure for early detection. There are several approaches: routine enquiry about use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs in the clinical history, and the use of screening tests, for example, in primary health care settings. Supplementary questions are then asked in order to confirm the diagnosis. The second component, treatment, is usually brief and takes place in the primary health care setting (lasting on average 5-30 minutes). Treatment may be more extensive in other settings.

See also: brief intervention

WHO Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms