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September 11, 1995

Self-report Screening Tests for Alcohol Problems in Primary Care

Author Affiliations

From the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md (Dr Allen); Syracuse (NY) University (Dr Maisto); Department of Psychology and the Research Institute on Addictions, Buffalo, NY (Dr Connors).

Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(16):1726-1730. doi:10.1001/archinte.1995.00430160044005

Considering the prevalence of excessive alcohol use, its adverse consequences on physical and emotional well-being, and the high degree of responsivity of early-stage drinking problems to brief intervention, screening for alcohol abuse is warranted in medical practice. We describe several practical self-report tests that can help primary care physicians screen their patients for alcohol abuse. Two of the more popular tests, the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test and the CAGE (an acronym for questions about cutting down on drinking, annoyance at others' concern about drinking, feeling guilty about drinking, and using alcohol as an eye-opener in the morning), are comparable in sensitivity and specificity. Either test is appropriate, but the brevity of CAGE generally gives it an advantage in a busy medical office. Three new tests, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, the Adolescent Drinking Index, and the TWEAK also are promising. We offer guidelines for selection of screening tests for primary care practice.

(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:1726-1730)