Screening for alcohol abuse has commonly been done through lengthy questionnaires with dozens of questions. Now a new study suggests that one question can determine dependence and need for care, which would simply the process of getting help for those who need it.
"Instead of extensive interviews or long questionnaires, which are a barrier to screening in primary care settings, this approach may make it much easier to identify and appropriately address unhealthy substance use," said Dr. Richard Saitz, lead study author and chair and professor of community health sciences at BUSPH and a professor of medicine at BU School of Medicine.
For alcohol use, the participants were asked how many times in the past year they had consumed five or more drinks in a day (for men), and four or more (for women). For other substance use, they were asked, "How many times in the past year have you used an illegal drug or used a prescription medication for nonmedical reasons?"
The single alcohol screening question detected 88 percent of those with alcohol dependence, and the drug question detected 97 percent of those with drug dependence. The responses were rarely positive when the patients did not have dependence. Results with the single screening questions [SSQs] were similar to those yielded by longer screening tests.
Once screened, patients with alcohol or drug dependence may be referred to specialists, programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, pharmacotherapy, or other intensive follow-up. For patients at lower risk, brief counseling may be appropriate.
Content Originally Published By: Science Daily