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Screening for Alcohol Abuse-Reply

Forrest S. Tennant Jr, MD
JAMA. 1980;244(14):1560. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310140019016.
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In Reply.—  Dr Lacoursiere points out some screening measures that may help the clinician recognize alcohol abuse in clinical settings. We have found the pocket-sized breath analyzer to be particularly useful. A recently reported study by us, using this device, showed that 6.6% of a group of adult men given a preemployment physical examination had a positive result on the breath alcohol test.1 All medical populations will not likely show a prevalence of more than 5% alcohol abuse, since alcohol abuse is episodic in nature. Most epidemiologic surveys of adult, nonmedical populations report that alcohol problems related to driving, work, or marriage reach an upper prevalence of 10% to 15%.2 Compulsive, daily alcohol use that could likely be detected by medical screening, however, has much lower prevalence.The medical population screened in our study intentionally eliminated patients with the common psychiatric complaints of nervousness, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches,


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