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A one-question screen may be all that physicians need

April 15, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Asking adolescents just one question about drinking frequency can allow busy primary care physicians to uncover a likely alcohol use disorder without creating an undue time burden, concludes a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Published online in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study found that for adolescents ages 12 to 17, asking whether they drank one standard drink on three or more days in the past year had a 91% sensitivity rate in being able to identify a youth with an alcohol use disorder. For young people ages 18 to 20, one-third of those who reported 12 or more such drinking days in a year were found to have an alcohol use disorder.

“We found that this information could be readily collected through our tablet computer system in busy rural clinic settings,” said Duncan B. Clark, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and lead author of the study.

The study involved nearly 1,200 youths in rural Pennsylvania primary care clinics who were asked about their alcohol use and then were screened for an alcohol use disorder via a computer-based questionnaire. Ten percent of the study group over age 14 were found to meet DSM-5 criteria for a past-year alcohol use disorder, the researchers reported.