Recognizing alcoholics: Just 2 questions can help

Deepak Gupta February 16, 2022
Updated 2022/02/16 at 7:03 PM

Alcohol addiction can develop insidiously over months or even years. So it’s not always easy to spot them. However, researchers at the University of Leicester in the UK found in a study that, in a first step of recognition, just two questions could be enough to get one Identifying an alcoholic. In addition, there are official self-tests that everyone can carry out at home.

Content: Recognizing Alcoholics

Recognizing Alcoholics: The 2 Questions

The questions that can be asked to identify alcoholics are:

  1. How often do you have at least six alcoholic drinks on one occasion?
  2. Has anything happened in the past year because of your drinking that you regret?

Researchers at the University of Leicester in the UK used statistical analysis to find that these two questions identified people with alcohol problems 87.2 percent of the time. In addition, people without alcohol problems could be correctly identified in 79.8 percent of the cases. This is reported by the press office of the university.

Answers to the questions could either rule out drinking problems or highlight potentially excessive or unsafe drinking habits.

Alcohol consumption in Germany
– 6.7 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 consume alcohol in a health-risk form
– 1.6 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 are classified as alcohol dependent (ESA 2018 via Federal Ministry of Health)
The consumption of pure alcohol per person aged 15 and over was 10.7 liters in 2018. In 1970 it was 14.4 liters (according to German Head Office for Addiction Questions eV)

Especially important for medical staff

These two questions are particularly relevant for general practitioners. According to the head of the study, Dr. Alex Mitchell, great time pressure, so they didn’t have much time to ask all patients a long list of questions. Many people with alcohol addiction may not be able to get the help they need.

“Our work shows that asking only two questions to patients works relatively well, but for those who initially tested positive, a longer questionnaire with four questions must follow,” says Dr. Alex Mitchell. The CAGE test was developed for this purpose.

This is the CAGE test

CAGE is composed as follows:

  • Cwith down drinking (reduction)
  • Annoyance (anger)
  • Guilty (guilt)
  • Eye opener

The following questions should be answered with yes or no:

  • Have you ever thought about drinking less?
  • Have you ever felt angry when others criticized you for drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever drunk alcohol first thing in the morning to calm your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

The researchers found that in 90.9 percent of all cases, patients with alcohol problems would be correctly identified if both the short test and the survey were carried out.

“This means that potentially all patients who see their GP could be screened for alcohol problems in a relatively short amount of time, with a high level of accuracy, particularly in identifying those who do not require intervention.”

According to the University of Leicester

WHO Alcohol Consumption Test

It is also possible online the so-called Aalcohol usee Disorders Iidentification Test (AUDIT) to do. The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). It contains ten questions.

  1. How often do you consume alcoholic beverages?
  2. If you drink alcohol, how many glasses do you typically drink in a day?
  3. How often do you drink 6 or more glasses of alcohol on one occasion (eg, at a dinner, party, or event)?
  4. Over the past 12 months, how often have you found that you can’t stop drinking once you start?
  5. Over the past 12 months, how often has your drinking prevented you from doing what was expected of you?
  6. Over the past 12 months, how often have you had your first glass of alcohol in the morning to get you going after drinking heavily the day before?
  7. In the past 12 months, how often have you felt guilt or regret after drinking?
  8. In the last 12 months, how often has it been impossible for you to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?
    Have you or anyone else ever been hurt because of drinking?
  9. Has a family member, friend, doctor or other health care professional ever expressed concern about your drinking or suggested that you cut down on your drinking?
  • Questions 1 to 3 deal with alcohol consumption.
  • Questions 4 to 6 relate to alcohol addiction.
  • Questions 7 through 10 relate to alcohol-related problems.

A value of seven or more for women and eight or more for men indicates a high probability of dangerous or harmful alcohol consumption. It is advisable to speak to your family doctor. A value of 20 or more indicates alcohol dependence. That requires special treatment.

  • You can take the test here on the official WHO website in English do.
  • Here the test from the Oberberg Kliniken Berlin in German offered.

by the way: You can also do an alcohol self-test on the website Kenn dein Limit from the Federal Center for Health Education. Here is the test.

More information about alcohol

Identifying alcoholics can be a first step towards help. This is what happens in your body when you stop drinking alcohol. That alcohol is not good for your body is also shown by what happens when you consider what alcohol does to your brain cells. A new study now also shows whether your mood really improves when you drink alcohol.

Source: Press Office of the University of Leicester, Federal Ministry of Health, German Center for Addiction Questions eV, World Health Organization (WHO), Oberberg Kliniken, Know your limit

If you are addicted to alcohol and are looking for help, you can find hotlines and telephone advice centers here:

  • Addiction and drug hotline (nationwide and around the clock): 01806 313031 (20 cents / call from a landline, 60 cents / call from a mobile phone)
  • BZgA information line for addiction prevention: 0221 892031 (Price according to the price list of your telephone provider for calls to the German landline network): Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m
  • You can find help online at the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) or Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • The BZgA’s Kenn dein Limit has numerous tips on how to drink less alcohol (link here).

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