Should All Adults Be Screened For Alcohol Abuse?

By Amir Khan on September 25, 2012 1:43 PM EDT

Alcohol
Should all adults be screened for alcohol abuse? (Photo: Reuters)

Should all adults be screened for alcohol abuse? According to a new recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, they should. Screening all adults would help cut excessive drinking in in people who were not yet full blown alcoholics, the taskforce said.

Researchers found that a few brief counseling sessions could bring one in every 10 risky drinkers back into "normal" territory -- at most 14 drinks per week for men, seven for women.

The really good interventions incorporate self-help materials, they incorporate an action plan made by the doctor and the patient - they're not just a prescription," Dr. Daniel Jonas, lead researcher from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who is not part of the task force, told Reuters.

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The most effective screening tool, researchers said, is to ask if the person has had five or more drinks on any one occasion -- a sign of alcohol misuse, researchers said. If the answer is "yes," health care providers should gauge the level of misuse and determine if further counseling is necessary.

"The poster-child for these interventions was two visits with the primary care doctor, each one about 10 to 15 minutes and about a month apart and each one with a follow-up call from a nurse to reinforce the behavior," Jonas told Reuters.

While the plan has the potential to help a wide range of people, Jonas acknowledged that cost would be a prohibiting factor.

"That is really the biggest challenge with implementing this," he said. "Training is a big piece of it too, because a lot of providers need to learn how to do it."

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