A two-question survey could help solve problem of undetected drinking problems

Posted by er134 at Jul 07, 2014 09:45 AM |
Research shows GPs could quickly identify patients who are potentially at risk of alcohol problems by asking two simple questions

Identifying patients with alcohol problems could be a relatively simple task for GPs, according to Leicester research.

A team of researchers led by Dr Alex Mitchell (pictured), honorary senior lecturer at our Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and an NHS consultant in psycho-oncology at Leicestershire Partnership Trust, shows that asking two simple questions to each patients could be a very effective way of showing who may be at risk of drinking problems.

Currently, GPs to do not tend to screen every patient for alcohol problems as a matter of course. If drinking issues are suspected, doctors might use surveys of up to ten questions to analyse their drinking habits – but these tend to be too long to administer for each and every patient who walks through the door.

As a result, the researchers believe there is a demand for shorter surveys which could be used more widely without sacrificing accuracy.

Dr Mitchell led a team of researchers who analysed 17 previous studies into the effectiveness of simple questions to detect alcohol problems involving a total of 5646 individuals seen in primary care.

Using statistical analysis, they found that asking two questions could correctly identify those with alcohol problems in 87.2 per cent of cases, and correctly identify those who did not have alcohol problems in 79.8 per cent of cases.

Particularly useful questions include:

How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?

As a result of your drinking, did anything happen in the last year that you wish didn’t happen?

For anyone who appears to be at risk based on their responses to the two questions, GPs should follow up the survey with a longer test such as the CAGE questionnaire – a four-question survey widely used to screen for alcoholism or the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) - which consists of ten questions.

The researchers found that using a combination of a short, two-question test with a longer survey correctly identified patients with alcohol problems in 90.9 per cent of all cases.

This means that all patients visiting their GP could potentially be screened for alcohol problems in a relatively short length of time, with a high degree of accuracy, particularly in the recognition of people who do not need an intervention.