New Guidelines Issued for Identifying Alcohol Abuse

When an individual comes in to the hospital or to their doctor’s office, it is a prime opportunity for health care providers to assess multiple areas of physical and mental health. It may be possible to determine whether the patient may need attention for ailments other than the ones being currently treated.

However, during the exam, a health care provider may be overwhelmed with the various screenings required to determine what different disorders could be causing problems for the patient, especially because some mental disorders are also associated with a concerted effort to hide symptoms and avoidance of conversation relating to the topic.

In an effort to help reach the hundreds of thousands of people in England who are dependent on alcohol and not receiving treatment, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued new guidelines for identifying those in need of treatment.

In the UK, there are over one million people dependent on alcohol, and only 6 percent of those individuals currently receive treatment. That leaves approximately 940,000 people who are either not looking for help, encounter difficulty in getting access to the correct types of services, or whose symptoms are slipping past healthcare professionals.

The guidelines, released this week by NICE, are the first ever published for the NHS in order to address variations in clinical practice for screening patients for alcohol dependence. The guidelines provide information helpful in diagnosing, assessing and treating those who exhibit symptoms of alcohol dependence.

The guidelines call for health and social care professionals to utilize assessment tools such as the AUDIT and SADQ to augment information gathered through clinical interviews. The assessments, according to NICE, will make it possible to accurately diagnose patients and measure the severity of dependence among those who are alcohol dependent. The guidelines will make planning a course of treatment more streamlined.

Dr. Fergus Macbeth is the Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE. Macbeth believes that the guidelines will help in diagnosing a problem that is often kept secret by patients because of the discrimination that comes with alcohol dependence. The guidelines give health care professionals tools that create an environment that is supportive to those who are in need of treatment.

Macbeth says that the guidelines are useful for correctly diagnosing, assessing and treating alcohol dependence, which will greatly improve the methods being used across the NHS in screening for alcohol dependence.