An alcohol screening test is a tool used to help determine if a person’s drinking has reached a risky level. The test, “was developed as a simple method of screening for excessive drinking and to assist in brief assessment,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
If we can identify problem drinking in its earliest stages, we can help people with excessive drinking issues target triggers that lead to drinking, reduce drinking, or seek the help they need in time to make a change for the better.
Why Do We Use Alcohol Screening Tests?
While alcohol screening tests can be useful tools for people with existing drinking issues, the tests may have other uses as well. The WHO explains, “screening for alcohol among patients in primary care carries many potential benefits. It provides an opportunity to educate patients about low-risk consumption levels and the risks of excessive alcohol use.”
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The test allows you, and your primary care provider, to see how often you use alcohol, which allows you to gauge your level of risk for addiction. Once you know where you stand with risk of abuse, you can seek preventative measures to avoid further abuse or development of addiction.
We also use the tests because they’ve proven effective over time. As the tests became increasingly effective, the demand for and use of them increased. It’s important to recognize that a screen is not the same as a diagnosis, which can identify a disorder.
Instead, a screen helps determine the likelihood of an existing drinking condition or the level of risk of development of one. If a person seems at high risk, he or she may have to undergo diagnostic testing for alcohol use disorder.
The tests work using questions related to a person’s use of alcohol. When used in primary care, this can range from one question to an extensive assessment.
When used by a clinician, testing “typically depends on the patient’s characteristics, whether he or she has other medical or psychiatric problems, the physician’s skills and interests, and the amount of time available,” according to the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA).
What Are The Signs Of Alcohol Abuse And Addiction?
So, what exactly is the test screening for? The tests ask questions that usually pertain to frequency and amounts of drinking which aid in identifying excessive use.
For example, questions on an alcohol screening test may ask, “how many drinks do you typically have on a day when you drink?” or, “how many times during the last year could you not remember events from the night before due to drinking?”
Perhaps you’re wondering how these questions alone could be accurate in pointing to signs of abuse based on singular answers. However, positive answers to certain screening questions immediately point to alcohol abuse.
If you’re asked if you drink more than a certain number of drinks during a given time period (one occasion) and you answer yes, you may have a drinking problem even if it’s simply binge drinking. If you can say you’ve had more than a few drinks on a single occasion several times per month for several consecutive months, you may be at risk of addiction.
It’s the screens that identify behaviors and patterns of abuse. With time, abuse of alcohol can lead to addiction, a chronic disease which can be hard to overcome without help.
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Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse
So, why is it so important to identify risk of alcohol abuse? At the end of the day, alcohol abuse is risky because it affects your health, immediately and long-term.
The NIAAA reports, “drinking too much—on a single occasion or over time—can take a serious toll on your health.” To start, it changes the way your brain communicates. In turn, this can affect your mood, behaviors, thought processes, and even make it difficult to move by affecting coordination.
Other areas of the body affected by excessive drinking include the heart, liver, and pancreas.
Just a few ways alcohol abuse can damage your health include:
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Fatty liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Stretching/stopping of the heart muscle
- Effects to vision and eyesight
Further, prolonged abuse of alcohol can contribute to development of several types of cancer, including mouth, esophagus, throat, breast, and liver. Overall, drinking also weakens the immune system, which can cause you to contract disease or infection more easily, including dangerous diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
What Types Of Treatment Are Available?
Treatment for alcohol abuse is more effective than ever before. More modalities are developed all the time. A holistic approach—which focuses on health of you as a whole—proves to have the most successful recovery outcomes.
Addiction to alcohol can affect your health in so many ways from your brain to your physical health, sleep patterns, behaviors, mood, and even the way you think. Our rehab centers recognize this, and that’s why they integrate a variety of methods to ensure you have the best chance at success in rehab.
Some of the research-based methods available at our rehab centers include:
- Counseling: family, group, and individual
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Adventure therapy
- Wilderness therapy
- Medically supervised detoxification
- Medication-assisted therapy
- Mindfulness and stress management techniques
- Aftercare support and family services