Alcohol Use Disorder Screening Tools Doctors, Nurses Use

While it practically goes without saying that continued efforts to curb opioid addiction in the United States are critical, it is also vital that we do not lose sight of the other substance abuse disorders affecting millions of Americans—such as alcohol use disorder (AUD). The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that alcohol misuse is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability in the United States.

Alcoholic Reality

Unlike the majority of addictive substances that are heavily abused, alcohol is legal for adult consumption. Depending on which state you reside in, alcohol can be purchased and consumed with ease. And, short of driving under the influence or drinking in public, there are no laws which dictate how much alcohol a person can consume.

In the field of addiction medicine, we are well aware of the fact that those who engage in heavy alcohol use often wind up suffering from an AUD, a condition that can dramatically change the course of one’s life. Every day, we treat people who suffer from the disease of alcoholism, equipping them with the skills needed to live a productive life free from drugs and alcohol. It is often the case that such client’s alcohol abuse went unchecked for decades before being intervened. However, there are others who are in a unique position to address someone’s alcohol abuse, potentially saving them from years of added heartache.

Alcohol Abuse Intervention

The sooner alcoholism is treated, the better. Unfortunately, a problem can go on for years before it is either spotted, or addressed. It is vital that those working in the field of medicine screen patients for signs of substance abuse. Those who are in the best position to do so are, arguably, primary care physicians (PCPs), nurse practitioners (NP) and/or physician assistants (PA). Alcoholics see doctors for various health problems, some of which can be linked to their disorder. Doctors and nurses who regularly screen their patients at a young age forward, can identify problems early on and intervene by suggesting recovery resources. Screening for alcoholism in primary care is vital, saving lives by the thousands and saving financial costs to health care systems.

Doctors and nurses should be fully aware of the criteria for alcoholism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V). There are also a number of other screening resources available, such as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C). This screening tool can help physicians identify patients who are hazardous drinkers or have active alcohol use disorders. There is also the CAGE questionnaire which asks the following questions:

  1. Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
  4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Follow Doctors Orders

If your physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant believes that you have an alcohol use disorder and has advised you to seek treatment, please contact Family Recovery Specialists. Our inpatient and outpatient programs can help you break the cycle of alcoholism, and help begin the journey of recovery.

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