ALCOHOLISM is one of the most prevalent conditions to confront the primary care physician. In six different hospital studies,1-3 alcoholism was found in 3.7% to 9.9% of women and in 15.3% to 29% of men.
We believe that all general medical patients should be screened for alcoholism and think that this can be done simply and reliably. In general, one must have a high index of suspicion, ask the proper questions, gather the evidence, and understand the condition. We suggest the following approach.
The Right Questions
Two commonly asked questions should be avoided. "How much do you drink?" and "Are you an alcoholic?" usually bring guarded replies and produce little useful information.We think that four simple screening questions can go a long way toward alerting the clinician to alcoholism. "Do you drink?" obviously must begin the screening process. The patient who denies drinking at all should then be