Doctors Routinely Miss Signs of Problem Drinking | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  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.

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
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, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 

Reflections
 
 
 
 

This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea
 
 
 
 

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu
 
 
 
 

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

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

the fix tv