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Single Screening Questions vs. Alcohol Use Disorder Tests

Last Updated on March 19, 2018 by Inspire Malibu

The latest research suggests that Single Screening Questions can determine the degree to which a person is dependent on alcohol or drugs. The report, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, claims this method will make it easier to identify and address substance abuse issues.

Single Screening Questions Alcohol Abuse QuestionnaireThe National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has long recommended that primary care physicians screen their patients for unhealthy alcohol use. Screening for drug abuse, though, has only been suggested for those that are deemed “at risk.”

The extent to which primary care physicians do either, screen patients for drug or alcohol addiction, is left to their own discretion. Some experts assert that there have not been effective tools for screening, that weren’t time consuming and lengthy.

Traditional screening techniques, such as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), are questionnaires. They can be several pages long and have multiple answer options. Some have as few as 3 questions, while others have as many as 80.

What Are Single Screening Questions?

Single screening questions (SSQ), are what they sound like, one question, which prompt one answer. These SSQ’s can aid healthcare providers in determining the level and severity that a person might or might not suffer when it comes to substance abuse.

Researchers enlisted 286 patients, recruited from the Boston Medical Center, for their study. They used one SSQ for alcohol and another for drugs.

Here are the Single Screening Questions they asked:

  • For Females: how many times in the previous year have you consumed four or more drinks in a day?
  • For Males: how many times in the previous year have you consumed five or more drinks in a day?
  • For both Females and Males: how many times in the previous year have you used prescription drugs non-medically or used illegal substances?

The SSQ for alcohol identified 88 percent of those with alcohol dependence issues. When it came to the drug SSQ, 97 percent of patients with substance abuse problems were identified. Additionally, the results rarely showed a false-positive when patients had no addiction issues.

Dr. Richard Saitz, the lead author of the study, believes that these SSQ’s can assist physicians in getting their patients the proper treatment in a more efficient and effective manner.

More Complete Alcohol Screening

Alcoholism Treatment Centers – Quick Quiz

  • Do you have to drink more than before to get drunk or feel the desired effect?
  • Have you felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have you ever had any blackouts after drinking?
  • Have you ever missed work or lost a job because of drinking?
  • Is someone in your family worried about your drinking?

More Alcoholism Questions for Going to Treatment Centers

  • Do you continue to drink, even when health, work, or family are being harmed?
  • Do you drink alone?
  • Do you become violent when drinking?
  • Do you become hostile when asked about drinking?
  • Are you not able to control drinking and unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake?
  • Do you make excuses to drink?
  • Do you miss work or school, or have a decrease in performance because of drinking?
  • Do you stop taking part in activities because of alcohol?
  • Do you need to use alcohol on most days to get through the day?
  • Do you neglect to eat or eat poorly?
  • Does your hygiene and appearance suffer?
  • Do you try to hide alcohol use?
  • Do you shake in the morning or after periods when they have not a drink?
  • Do you have memory lapses after heavy drinking?
  • Do you need more and more alcohol to feel “drunk”?
  • Do you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you haven’t had a drink for a while?
  • Have you experienced alcohol-related illnesses such as alcoholic liver disease?

More Ways to Determine if Someone Needs Alcoholism Treatment

  • Blood alcohol level (this does not confirm alcoholism)
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Liver function tests
  • Magnesium blood test

How Do Alcoholism Treatment Centers Work?

Questionnaire-based screening is a method of detecting harmful drinking patterns, including alcoholism. Alcohol detoxification is conducted initially to withdraw the alcoholic person from drinking alcohol, usually with cross-tolerance drugs, such as benzodiazepines to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Rehabilitation programs include post-medical care, such as group therapy, or self-help groups, and are usually required to maintain alcoholic abstention.

Treatment for Mental Health and Addiction Problems

The development of effective screening tools benefits not just patients with substance abuse issues, but those suffering from mental illness, such as depression, coupled with addiction problems. This combination is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis.

It’s estimated that 5.6 million Americans live with co-occurring disorders. People with mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders or bipolar disorder, are 50 percent more likely to suffer from substance abuse issues. Alcohol and drugs can mask symptoms of mental illness, while increasing the severity of the disease.

Administered properly, SSQs can help patients with substance abuse problems, as well as patients with co-occurring disorders get the specialized treatment and care that these diseases require.


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