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Home > Alcohol abuse: prevalence and detection in general hospital.

Hearne, Ronan and Connolly, Anita and Sheehan, John (2002) Alcohol abuse: prevalence and detection in general hospital. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 95, (2), pp. 84-87.

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Alcohol abuse and dependence commonly go undetected in hospital inpatients, despite a high prevalence of alcohol-related disabilities and the availability of cost-effective interventions. In a university teaching hospital, three well validated screening methods for sensitivity and specificity were compared; the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT, with various cut-off scores), CAGE (a four-question screening tool), and a 10-question version of the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (BMAST). A subset of patients also completed the DSM IV structured clinical interview for diagnosis. 1133 adult patients were randomly selected from all hospital admissions, excluding day cases and patients too ill to be interviewed. Two-thirds of the patients were interviewed, the remainder were unavailable at the time. 30% of the men and 8% of the women met the DSM IV criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence.

Sensitivities and specificities of the screening tools were as follows: AUDIT (with cut-off score >8) 89% and 91%; CAGE 77% and 99%; BMAST 37% and 100%. 255 case records of patients scoring above the cut-off on one or more questionnaires were subsequently reviewed. The admitting team recognised an alcohol problem in only 46, of whom 17 were referred for appropriate follow up. As in previous hospital surveys, alcohol abuse and dependence was not receiving proper attention. The most efficient screening tool was the CAGE questionnaire.

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