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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doctors Need to Screen for Problem Drinking

Physicians are the first line of defense when it comes to addiction, but, unfortunately it seems that they are overlooking key signs that their patients are suffering. In most cases, doctors are simply asking the wrong questions or none at all. A new study found that almost three-fourths of patients drinking problems are missed by doctors because they don’t conduct alcohol screening questions. Instead, doctors are relying on gut feelings about whether a patient is engaging in problem drinking.

A doctor can spot alcohol problems by asking a few simple questions about drinking habits, which could help patients cut back on drinking, experts told CNN. Almost 1,700 adults were asked to complete questionnaires, created by researchers, at the end of a primary care doctor’s visit.

Questions Like:

  • Drinking Habits
  • How often they drank.
  • How many drinks they usually had per day.
  • Has their drinking ever put them at risk of being hurt or cause an accident.
After the visit, doctors were asked whether they thought the patient had problems with alcohol.

The doctors who relied on gut instinct about their patients drinking, instead of conducting a screening, missed almost three-fourths of patients who screened positive for alcohol problems

“I hope that by papers like this, it’s going to be a nudge to a physician to say … ‘Maybe I should start screening.’ It’s not that hard to do,” said study author Dr. Daniel Vinson of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

The study appears in the Annals of Family Medicine.
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