facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Doctors Routinely Miss Signs of Problem Drinking

Primary care doctors who rely on instinct alone fail to spot 70% of problem drinkers among their patients.

Image: 

Doctors' instincts aren't enough. Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman

01/15/13

| Share

When it comes to diagnosing problem drinking, doctors should by no means go with their gut, a new study indicates. Researchers led by Dr. Daniel Vinson of the University of Missouri screened around 1,700 patients. They found that doctors failed to diagnose over 70% of those patients with drinking problems when they relied merely on suspicion, rather than using screening tools. Although 235 of the patients screened positive for hazardous or harmful drinking, primary care doctors suspected drinking problems in just 81 of them. They do spot the most obvious cases, however: When they did suspect that a patient had a drinking problem, they were correct 98% of the time. "[Primary care doctors] are uniquely positioned to screen and assess all patients' patterns of alcohol and drug use," says Bruce Goldman, director of Substance Abuse Services at the Zucker Hillside Hospital, NY. "A few standardized screening questions, consistently asked of all patients, could quickly identify those who would benefit from either education or referral to specialized care." But some doctors argue that, while screenings are the best way to identify drinking problems, it's not feasible to perform them in every medical setting. "Most practices do not have the ability to deal with the conditions that are being detected," says Dr. Neil Calman, chairman of Family Medicine and Community Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Second, they identify many patients who do not choose to seek help for the detected issues and resources may be wasted on people who do not see the problem as something that needs to be addressed or that they want to have addressed." Calman adds that conducting such screenings could also alienate some from receiving care for other critical conditions because they don't want to be asked about issues they feel are irrelevant to their visit.

Most Popular
Sober Living
Did I Pick the Wrong Sponsor, Or Is it Me?

After four years of thinking about asking someone to sponsor me, someone finally asked to be my sponsor. But I'm not sure it was a good decision... for either of us.

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu
 
 
 
 
 

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery
 
 
 

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center
 
 
 
 

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious San Diego rehab has a program for you—if you can tear yourself away from “the most amazing massages ever."

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv