When patients visit their GPs the doctor often has a limited amount of time to spend with their patient. With this in mind, researchers from the University of Leicester have created a two question test to help doctors quickly identify patients who may be problem drinkers.
The two questions can be changed slightly to fit different situations but they boil down to:
1)How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
2)As a result of your drinking, did anything happen in the last year that you wish didn’t happen?
If a patient provides answers to these questions that do not suggest a drinking problem, the doctor can simply move on. However, if the answers to these questions give the GP cause for concern, the doctor can follow up with something like the CAGE questionnaire which is another four questions. The first two questions alone could identify someone with an alcohol problem 87.2% of the time. By adding the extra four questions for those deemed to be at risk, researchers found they could identify alcohol abuse 90.9% of the time.
The researchers behind these new questions believe that their method could detect drinking problems earlier and reduce the number of people suffering from alcohol related problems. By quickly screening every patient that visits a GP the new test could do more than just catch potential problems, it could provide crucial data on where alcohol abuse is most prevalent and where treatment is most needed.
Dr Alex Mitchell, the leader of the research team said, "There is great time pressure in primary care. GPs don't have the time to ask a long list of questions for every single patient. The shorter the survey, the more acceptable it is for GP - but the greater the danger that it is inaccurate.
"Our work shows that asking just two questions to patients works modestly well, but they need to be followed up by a longer questionnaire of four questions in those who initially screen positive."
"At the moment, GPs ask patients about alcohol problems during about 3 per cent of consultations. Routine screening using simple questions are an attempt to improve the situation. The evidence suggests that starting with two questions and then proceeding to either the CAGE or AUDIT surveys would be the best way to go."
To learn more about alcohol addiction, check out the Life Works alcohol Knowledge Centre.