Five Minutes of Screening Could Help Patients Who Misuse Alcohol

Government statistics tell us that around 30 percent of American adults misuse alcohol. Alcohol misuse takes a toll on physical health, family finances, inter-personal relationships and work productivity. Misuse of alcohol makes it one of the foremost causes of unnecessary and preventable deaths in this country. A national task force on alcohol abuse prevention suggests that doctors could help lower those statistics by taking a few extra minutes to screen patients for alcohol misuse during regular visits.

As reported in a recent healthcare article, doctors who are willing to give patients a 10-question screening could help identify those who are in trouble with their use of alcohol. The questionnaire would take patients only a few minutes to complete, but could prove valuable in directing patients toward help and counseling. Studies show that physicians can be influential in re-directing unhealthy drink habits toward healthier lifestyle choices.

One of the hardest things to do is to get a person who misuses alcohol to recognize their problem. Drinkers tend to have a skewed perception about themselves and their alcohol use. For example, plenty of over-drinkers see themselves as fun, lively and the life of the party. It doesn’t even occur to them that others may be viewing them differently. Physicians can be a non-judgmental pair of outside eyes to help patients see things from another side.

Doctors who use the questionnaire to identify at risk patients could have helpful medical advice or could direct patients to professional counseling. It is important to help patients realize that alcohol misuse is a common problem and one that can be changed. The person is not alone. Counseling exists precisely because there is a significant need. By taking just five minutes out of a regular check-up, general practitioners could help a number of their patients see the problem and get the help they need.