Screening for Alcohol Use Disorder: The Need To Know
11 October, 2023
Screening for alcohol use disorder identifies those who have alcohol abuse or dependence problems. An expert uses questionnaires and interviews in various settings. This is to determine the drinking habits and the effects of alcohol on an individual. This process allows for early screening and intervention for many people. Additionally, it informs policymakers and researchers about the issues facing the community. However, the accuracy of the results depends on the answers of the interviewee.
Nevertheless, people diagnosed with alcohol use disorder need support groups and treatment from professionals. It can be difficult to quit alcohol consumption once they are dependent. Furthermore, excessive alcohol intake causes social, work, and health problems. It also increases risky behaviours like drink driving. However, dependence may render the person unable to stop consumption regardless. This article will present how screening works, the procedure, and its benefits and limitations.
How Does Screening for Alcohol Use Disorder Work
Alcohol use disorder is an illness wherein the individual cannot control or cease their consumption of alcoholic beverages. It can range from mild, moderate, or severe. Alcohol abuse occurs when the person continues to drink even when it has serious consequences. Meanwhile, alcohol dependence indicates a complete loss of control towards liquor consumption. To combat this, different tests are used for screening for alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol abuse screening aims to identify individuals who may have excessive drinking problems. It uses standardised assessment tools like questionnaires or interviews to determine the amount of alcohol the person regularly consumes and its effects on them. Following that, healthcare professionals analyse the answers. This allows them to assess the drinking habits of the patient and understand the patterns of their alcohol consumption.
Moreover, alcohol testing methods are used to gain more information about the substance abuse of the individual. These methods include urine, saliva, blood, hair, and breath tests. Altogether, it helps medical professionals determine if intervention is necessary and the treatment plans appropriate for the patient.
Different Tests Used for Screening
These are some of the tests used for screening alcoholism:
- AUDIT, or Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test, is a multiple-choice questionnaire. It asks about the amount of alcohol the person consumes and its effects on their life.
- CAGE or Cut, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye. It asks yes or no questions related to a corresponding letter.
- MAST, or Michigan Alcohol Screening Test, consists of a 25-question test that assesses the severity of the alcoholism, the cravings for alcohol, and its effects on the life of the patient
- T-ACE stands for Tolerance, Annoyed Cut down, Eye-opener. It is similar to CAGE, but it targets pregnant women.
The Procedure for Screening for Alcohol Use Disorder
Screening for alcohol use disorders involves the use of standardised questions. These questions can be answered through an interview or a self-report questionnaire. The process can occur in different settings, including primary care clinics, hospital emergency departments, and substance abuse rehabilitation centres. There are no risks related to answering the questions. Furthermore, the individual does not need to prepare anything before taking it.
The screening is typically done or analysed afterwards by healthcare professionals, specifically those with a speciality in mental health problems or alcohol disorders diagnosis. Questions during screening generally ask about the following topics. This includes the amount the person drinks daily, the frequency of their drinking in a week, and the adverse effects caused by their drinking.
Afterwards, the screening results determine if the individual is likely suffering from alcohol misuse. The following steps may include further assessment and intervention. Additionally, referral to mental health services or specialised treatment plans are other options. In the end, the goal of the screening is to address the perceived alcohol abuse or dependence of an individual.
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder can manifest in different ways. Firstly, the person will have hard-to-ignore cravings for alcohol. This stems from developing a tolerance to ethanol, creating a need to consume more for the same effect. This will lead to the inability to control their consumption.
Secondly, the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, diarrhoea, and insomnia. These developments contribute to the unsuccessful quitting of ethanol consumption. Lastly, other signs include continuous drinking, regardless of health, social, and work problems. The person may start doing risky behaviours, such as drink driving and going to work intoxicated.
Benefits and Limitations of Screening for Alcohol Use Disorder
Screening for alcohol use disorder provides benefits to the person and their community. Firstly, it allows early detection and monitoring of alcohol problems. Early intervention can help those at risk for alcohol abuse and dependence. Secondly, it informs healthcare professionals about the drinking habits of the patient. It allows them to create tailored treatment plans for the individual.
Thirdly, it prevents accidents that may be caused by substance abuse. Accidents at work and drink driving incidents may be lessened if those with the disorder are identified and supported by peers and family. Lastly, it helps policymakers and researchers create strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm.
However, there are limitations to the screening. A pivotal part of the process is the accuracy of the answers of the patient. Some may underreport their use, while some may overstate it. This leads to data discrepancy and adds to the difficulty of determining the next steps. Furthermore, alcohol abuse has different ranges that a single tool may not accurately capture. Thus, it helps to use varied results and further assessment.
Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder can occur in anyone and can start at any age. Commonly, it shows in between the ages of 20 to 39. There are several risk factors for this disorder. Firstly, regularly drinking alcoholic beverages may lead to problems over time. Secondly, those with relatives who have liquor problems are genetically more likely to develop issues.
Thirdly, those drinking alcohol early in life are more likely to develop the disorder. Moreover, people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses have increased vulnerability to alcohol abuse. Lastly, individuals with friends or partners who drink regularly have an increased risk of alcohol use disorder.
Screening for alcohol use disorder is vital to helping people who suffer from this illness. There are many adverse effects caused by overconsumption of alcohol. Using standardised methods analysed by healthcare professionals can help to identify those with alcohol misuse and dependence issues. Furthermore, additional testing using blood, urine, saliva, hair, and breath tests can solidify the results. This data can help policymakers and researchers implement intervention methods. Overall, it helps the well-being of everyone in the community.
Additionally, peers and family need to recognise the symptoms of alcohol misuse. This enables them to support the individual and minimise its effects on them. Some may benefit from having personal monitoring devices to control their alcohol consumption, like BACtrack breathalysers from Breathalysers Australia. These devices provide accurate readings and have sensors similar to the testing devices police use during roadside tests.