SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR DRINKING?
by Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.
Have you ever wondered whether you should change your drinking habits? Your drinking may or may not be causing you and others problems. If it isn't, could the amount you drink be putting you at risk for health or other alcohol-related problems? Here is a quick, easy, and confidential way to find out.
Read through the following questions about your use of alcoholic beverages during the past year. In the questions, a drink is equal to 10 oz. of beer, 4 oz. of wine, or 1.25 oz. of 80 proof liquor. Use the check boxes to mark your answers, then total the score for each question on a piece of paper. When you are finished, we'll give you feedback about your score.
Please note: The check boxes are just an easy way to keep track of your answers. This is not an interactive form, so your answers are not recorded, and your privacy is assured.
1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?
3. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
4. How often during the last year have you found that you were unable to stop drinking once you had started?
5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?
7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?
9. Have you or someone else been injured as the result of your drinking?
10. Has a relative, friend, or a doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?
This screening test is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). It was developed by the World Health Organization as a simple method of screening for excessive drinking and to assist in brief assessment. It has been tested world-wide, and manuals developed for health care practitioners and alcohol researchers since 1989. It has steadily gained in international popularity since then, and is recognized as on eof the most useful brief questionnaires available today.
Now, add up all your scores. If your total score is 8 or more, your drinking is, at the least, putting you at some risk for alcohol-related problems. If you are wondering what do if you score 8 or more, allow us to recommend some courses of action.
The first thing you might consider if you get a high score is a more in-depth assessment. Discuss your drinking with your family doctor or health care provider. He or she is most concerned about your health and may be the best person to advise you about what is available in your community.
A second course of action to consider is changing your drinking behaviors on your own. Most people who have had alcohol-related problems stop their drinking or cut down without any formal treatment. There are also a number of self-help books available to help you in your process of self-change. If you do decide to change your drinking, one of your first decisions will be whether to stop altogether or to cut down to moderate amounts. Some people are able to cut down while others find it easier to stop altogether.
Another course of action to consider is attending a self-help group. Alcoholics Anonymous is a world-wide fellowship of people pursuing a goal of abstinence and recovery through their 12 step program. It has been a Godsend for many people, but not everyone can identify with it. Rational Recovery and Rational Self-help groups are an alternative to AA. They stress a non-spiritual approach to recovery. However, they are not nearly as wide spread at AA. Ask around and look in your local newspaper for information about the meeting times and places of self-help groups.
Finally, another course of action to consider is that of formal treatment. We have learned a great deal about how to best help people recover from substance abuse in the last 20 years. What we can tell you about treatment is that there is no single approach which works best for everyone. Rather there are a number of effective alternatives which are well supported by scientific research.
Whatever course of action you choose, be persistent! Many people do not succeed with their first efforts and relapse is common when people try to break their addictive behaviors. The key is to KEEP TRYING. Learn from your mistakes and continue to move forward.
If you have any further questions about how to interpret this questionnaire, much research has gone into developing various applications for it. For example, you can read the second edition of 'Guidelines for Use in Primary Care, ' here. It was published in 2001.
Updated on 8-25-08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.
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