The problem of alcoholism can begin in mild ways. As it is so socially accepted, no warning lights go off when a person goes on a “bender”. Quite the opposite, as in many cases they are jokingly slapped on the back and congratulated for a night outrageously well done. In fairness, in the majority such excess is handled well and does not develop into more unhealthy dependency. That said however, it does mask the moments in time where an alcoholic is in the making. In many cases the signs can be even subtler as the abuse of alcohol sets in, with the individual slowly sacrificing obligations of family, work and friends to maintain his dependency.
A study within the United States of America has recently shed light on this difficulty of detection. In the study, 1,700 adults completed questionnaires at the end of an office visit with a doctor. Questions based around lifestyle and social activities were featured. In the results, it was shown that when a doctor used a hunch or simply their best guess, they missed three out of four patients that had a drinking problem. That said, when they were more sure of signs, they were usually correct. (click here to view more about the study)
This shows strongly that a more uniform and specific screening test for drinking issues would massively help detection and treatment of alcoholics or those that abuse alcohol to an unhealthy extent in general. Dr Daniel Vinson, from Missouri School of Medicine stated that he “hope(s) that by papers like this, it’s going to be a nudge to physician to say … ‘Maybe I should start screening.’ It’s not that hard to do,”
The benefits of this kind of system would be far reaching. Instead of a more murky approach to discovering alcoholics in medical interviews, it would be easy for professionals to be trained in the screening system, making it accessible to a wider range of people. With greater detection comes more early warning in finding and helping those afflicted, allowing less lives to be ruined and money to be saved in future medical costs associated with treatment for alcoholism.
The impact on a countrywide level would also be impressive. Knowledge that there is a screening test anyone can be applied to would quite possibly increase the likelihood of voluntary admittance or encouragement to do so through peers and family ties. With more people diagnosed earlier, money and lives can be saved directly.
For more information about alcoholism and treatment options, please visit the LifeWorks Community Website