Alcohol Abuse Screening: Importance, Types, and Processes
04 December, 2023
Alcohol abuse is a prevalent problem worldwide, and it affects millions of people and industries. In the workplace, it is a significant factor in accidents and poor work performance. Thus, many institutions conduct alcohol abuse screening to identify individuals struggling with a disorder. It involves various types, such as the CAGE (Cut-down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener) and MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test). Individuals answer the question related to alcohol consumption to identify their level of risk of abuse.
Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) refers to the inability of the person to manage their consumption of alcohol. It is characterised by excessive drinking despite its negative consequences. In many cases, it has led to health problems, relationship issues, legal consequences, job loss, and financial difficulties. In this article, we will explore the importance of alcohol screening tools, the types of tests available, and the processes involved in these screenings.
Why Is Alcohol Abuse Screening Important?
Alcohol abuse screening is important for several reasons. The main purpose of the test is to identify individuals with AUD as early as possible. It also helps to recognise people who may be at risk of developing alcohol-related problems. Through early detection, it helps prevent further harm and promotes healthier behaviours.
Healthcare professionals can provide appropriate interventions, such as counselling or referrals to treatment programs. Thus, it enables individuals to address alcohol-related issues before they escalate. Additionally, it can help prevent serious health risks and legal issues. By screening individuals for alcohol abuse, professionals can gather data on the prevalence and patterns of harmful alcohol consumption.
The test can be taken by any person who is concerned about their drinking behaviour. It can also be used to monitor people who have already been diagnosed with AUD. Furthermore, some organisations may use the test for employees to ensure that everyone is in a safe and healthy working environment. A healthcare provider may administer the test, or individuals can take the assessment on their own through online questionnaires.
The Negative Impacts of Alcoholism
- Heavy drinking can lead to various health issues, such as liver damage, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, impaired digestion, and various types of cancer.
- Alcoholism can cause cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and heart diseases.
- Heavy drinking can lead to mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
- Alcohol misuse can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. Individuals are likely to engage in drink driving, falls, and violence.
- Alcoholism can strain relationships and lead to family conflict, workplace conflicts, and social isolation.
- Heavy drinking can lead to financial problems, including job loss, debt, and reduced earning potential.
Types of Alcohol Abuse Screening Tests
There are many types of alcohol abuse screening tests to help assess the level of severity of alcohol drinking. One type of test is the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT). It is a 10-point questionnaire that assesses alcohol consumption and the associated risks. The result ranges from no risk to severe alcohol dependence.
The second type is the CAGE. It is composed of four questions that measure the level of dependence on alcohol. This relates to the use of alcohol, such as if there are any attempts to cut down or quit drinking and being guilty. A variation of this test is the CAGE-Adapted to Include Drugs or CAGE-AID. This can help identify if a person has substance use disorders other than alcohol.
Another type of alcohol use screening test is the MAST. It is a comprehensive assessment tool consisting of a 25-point questionnaire that evaluates potential drinking problems. Lastly, the Tolerance, Worry, Eye-opener, Amnesia, Cut down (TWEAK) test is specifically designed for pregnant women. It is used to evaluate the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy.
Which Test to Take?
The type of alcohol use screening test to take depends on individual needs. The most common test is the AUDIT. It is a standardised assessment tool developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). AUDIT and CAGE are suitable for people concerned about their drinking behaviour with only a few sets of questions.
Meanwhile, if a person needs a comprehensive assessment of their drinking patterns, MAST is advisable. Moreover, clinicians may administer the TWEAK for pregnant women having problems with alcohol. It is best to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best type of alcohol screening test.
The Processes Involved in Alcohol Abuse Screening
The alcohol abuse screening process is simple and straightforward. Individuals can self-administer the test by answering online forms and receiving the test result and its corresponding interpretation. For medical review, a primary care provider may conduct a one-on-one interview with the individual. The initial interview helps to gather information about frequency, quantity, and pattern of use.
The second process is tallying the scores to receive the results. These screening tools use a point system that assesses the level of risks. They have cut-off levels to determine if a person is at risk of developing alcohol dependence. Afterwards, the clinician will discuss the results with the person to help them gain insight into their drinking habits.
Healthcare providers can provide further assessment of the results. To ensure the most accurate test, it is vital for individuals to answer the questions as honestly as they can. If the results indicate alcohol dependence, the clinician can suggest treatment options. Overall, these processes help healthcare professionals make an accurate diagnosis and develop an intervention plan for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse.
What Are the Next Steps?
The next step after taking an alcohol use screening test is to seek further evaluation. This is necessary for those with alcohol abuse or at high risk of developing alcohol dependence. Depending on the results of the screening test, a health professional can recommend pathology tests like urine, blood, and hair testing.
The drug and alcohol test can help identify the type and amount of alcohol consumed within a specific period of time. Furthermore, if the individual is diagnosed with a disorder, a professional may recommend counselling, behavioural therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. These interventions depend on the severity of substance abuse.
Alcohol abuse screening tests are important tools to identify if a person has AUD or is at risk of developing one. Tests like the AUDIT, CAGE, MAST, and TWEAK can help healthcare professionals diagnose the condition. They consist of several questions regarding the amount of alcohol intake, frequency of use, negative consequences, and attempts to quit drinking. Moreover, this test is the first step in addressing unhealthy alcohol use behaviour.
After assessment, clinicians can plan appropriate interventions to help people with alcohol abuse. Additional evaluation, like urine, blood, and hair testing, can also help provide a complete picture of alcohol use. With the right guidance, individuals can be provided with the necessary support to address their alcohol abuse problems. Finally, by understanding the significance and intricacies of alcohol screening, individuals, healthcare, and organisations can take a step towards addressing this pervasive problem.