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Home > Alcohol misuse in the general hospital: some hard facts.

Bradshaw, P and Denny, M and Cassidy, E (2008) Alcohol misuse in the general hospital: some hard facts. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 177, (4), pp. 339-342.

Alcohol misuse is associated with considerable physical, psychological and social morbidity. The annual direct healthcare cost of alcohol-related problems in Ireland has been estimated to be 433 million Euro. There is also evidence that this population alcohol problem is reflected in attendances at and admissions to general hospitals. This study aimed to examine (1) the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in adult general hospital inpatients; (2) the accuracy of documentation in relation to alcohol use. A total of 210 random patients were interviewed out of 1,448 consecutive new admissions to Cork University Hospital over seven days. Case notes were reviewed for 206 (98%).

Alcohol consumption was assessed using the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST) and weekly drinking diary. FAST-positive (and a random sample of FAST-negative) patients then had a standardised interview. A total of 82% admitted for drinking alcohol. Among them, 22% were drinking in excess of guidelines, 9% had DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and 7% dependence. The sensitivity and specificity of the FAST for detecting those drinking above guidelines were 89 and 94%, and for detecting a DSM-IV diagnosis was 100 and 73%. The majority of case notes contained inadequate information about alcohol intake. The authors conclude that alcohol use disorders are common and often undetected in the general hospital setting.

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