Alcohol Use Screening Tests: MedlinePlus Medical Test (2022)

What are alcohol use screening tests?

Alcohol use screening tests are questionnaires designed to find out if you have alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a pattern of excessive drinking that can cause serious problems in your work, relationships, and health. AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe AUD is sometimes called alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Most people who drink alcohol don't have AUD. But if you have AUD, you may:

  • Find it hard to control the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Spend a lot of time thinking about drinking
  • Need increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects

AUD is a disease that can be treated. If you have AUD, an alcohol use screening test can help your provider make an effective treatment plan for you.

Other names: Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), AUDIT-C, Cut down Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE) tool, Tolerance, Annoyed Cut down, Eye-opener (T-ACE) tool, Screening with Brief Intervention (SBI) Tool

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What are they used for?

Alcohol use screening tests are used to diagnose AUD. Some tests can also help show if the disease is mild, moderate, or severe.

Why do I need an alcohol use screening test?

You may need a screening test if you have symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD). These include:

  • Drinking more or longer than you planned
  • Trying to cut down or quit but being unable to do it
  • Hiding liquor bottles and glasses so others don't see evidence of drinking
  • Strong craving for alcohol
  • Continuing to drink even if it causes problems in your personal relationships, work, school, and/or health
  • Building up a tolerance to alcohol. That means you need more and more alcohol to feel its effects.

Some people with AUD don't know or want to admit they have a problem. If your family, friends, or co-workers express concerns about your drinking, talk to your health care provider about getting a screening. Your provider may also recommend a screening if they notice signs and symptoms of the disorder.

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What happens during an alcohol use screening test?

Alcohol use screening may be done by your primary care provider or a mental health provider. A mental health provider is a health care professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health problems. Some mental health providers specialize in treating AUD and similar disorders.

There are different types of alcohol use screening tests. But they each include questions about your drinking habits and how they affect your life. The most commonly used alcohol screening tests are:

  • Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). This test contains 10 multiple choice questions about how much and how often you drink alcohol and if you have any alcohol-related problems or reactions. The answers are scored on a point system. A score of 8 or more may indicate AUD.
  • AUDIT-C is a shortened version of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). It contains three multiple choice questions. Each answer is valued from 0 to 4 points. The higher the score, the more likely it is you have AUD.
  • Cut down Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE). This contains the following yes or no questions:
    • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
    • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
    • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
    • Eye-opener: have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?

Two or more "yes" answers may indicate AUD.

  • Tolerance, Annoyed Cut down, Eye-opener T-ACE. This test is similar to CAGE and is targeted toward pregnant women. It contains the following yes or no questions:
    • Tolerance: How many drinks does it take to make you feel high?
    • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
    • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
    • Eye-opener: have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?

Two or more "yes" answers indicate a possible AUD.

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  • Screening with Brief Intervention (SBI) Tools. These tests contain a series of yes or no questions targeted to developing brief interventions. Brief interventions are short-term counseling sessions and treatment strategies designed to help people make changes in their drinking behaviors and habits. If your test shows you have or are at risk for a serious drinking problem, a long-term treatment plan may be recommended.

Some questionnaires, including the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), are available online for self-testing. You can ask your provider how to access these tests.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparations for an alcohol use screening test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is no risk in taking a questionnaire.

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What do the results mean?

Some results may show whether you have AUD. Others may show the level of severity of AUD. For those tests, your results may be in one of the following or similarly named categories:

  • Mild. You may have one or two symptoms of problem drinking. It's not a level that is considered hazardous, a pattern of drinking that puts your health at risk and/or has harmful social effects on you or others. But if you have one or two symptoms now, you may be at risk for developing a more serious problem in the future. Your provider may recommend steps to help you change your drinking habits.
  • Moderate or Hazardous. You have four or five symptoms of a drinking problem. Your provider may recommend a brief intervention or other treatments.
  • Severe or Alcohol Dependent You may need more intensive treatment. This can include seeing a specialist, medication, support groups, and/or addiction recovery programs.

Is there anything else I need to know about an alcohol use screening test?

Some people with AUD are able to change their behaviors to cut back on drinking. Other people will need to stop completely. This is known as abstinence. Depending on the severity of your disorder, your provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Brief or long-term counseling from a mental health provider who specializes in treating AUD
  • Support groups. There are many different approaches and formats to alcohol use disorder support groups. Talk with your provider to find a group and approach that's right for you.
  • Medication-assisted treatment. Certain medications may reduce your cravings for alcohol. These medicines are only for people who have stopped or are trying to stop drinking altogether.

References

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  2. Addiction Hope [Internet]. Addiction Hope; c2021. Assessment Tools for Addiction Screening; 2017 Jun 26 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.addictionhope.com/blog/assessment-tools-addiction-screening
  3. American Addiction Centers [Internet]. San Diego: Alcohol.org; c2021. Alcohol Support Groups and Recovery Programs; [updated 2020 Aug 31; cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.alcohol.org/aftercare/support-groups
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  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; CDC's Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-screening.html
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Planning and Implementing Screening and Brief Intervention for Risky Alcohol Use: A Step-by-Step Guide for Primary Care Practices; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/alcoholsbiimplementationguide.pdf
  8. Drugs.com [Internet]. Drugs.com; c2000–2021. Alcohol Use Disorder (Alcoholism); [updated 2020 Aug 6; cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/alcohol-use-disorder-alcoholism.html
  9. HumanServicesEdu.org [Internet]. https://www.humanservicesedu.org; c2021. Substance Abuse Counselor; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.humanservicesedu.org/substance-abuse-counselor
  10. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2021. Alcohol use disorder: Symptoms and causes; 2018 Jul 11 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
  11. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2021. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one; 2017 May 16 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health-providers/art-20045530
  12. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2021. Alcohol; [updated 2020 Jun; cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/special-subjects/recreational-drugs-and-intoxicants/alcohol
  13. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Alcohol Use Disorder; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-use-disorder
  14. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Screening Tests; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh28-2/78-79.htm
  15. NIDA CTN Common Data Elements [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute on Drug Abuse; Instrument: AUDIT-C Questionnaire; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://cde.drugabuse.gov/instrument/f229c68a-67ce-9a58-e040-bb89ad432be4
  16. Reid MC, Fiellin DA, O'Connor PG. Hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in primary care. Arch Intern Med. [Internet]. 1999 Aug 9-23 [cited 2021 Apr 17];159(15):1681-9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10448769
  17. Resolve It Now: Drug and Alcohol Assessments [Internet]. What is the CAGE questionnaire or CAGE Test?; 2021 Feb 5 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://drugsandalcoholassessment.com/what-is-the-cage-questionnaire-or-cage-test
  18. Tulane University School of Medicine [Internet]. New Orleans: Tulane University; c2021. A Pocket Guide for Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://medicine.tulane.edu/sites/medicine.tulane.edu/files/pictures/niaa%20pocket%20guide%20alcohol.pdf
  19. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Health; c2021. Alcohol use disorder: Overview; [updated 2021 Feb 25; cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/alcohol-use-disorder
  20. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2021. Health Encyclopedia: What Do You Know About Alcohol Abuse?; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=40&contentid=AlcoholAbuseQuiz
  21. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [Internet]. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; T-ACE Screening Tool; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn22/t-ace_alcohol_screen.pdf
  22. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]. Rockville (MD): U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; Final Recommendation Statement: Unhealthy Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Adults: Screening and Behavioral Counseling Interventions; 2018 Nov 13 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/unhealthy-alcohol-use-in-adolescents-and-adults-screening-and-behavioral-counseling-interventions
  23. Very Well Mind [Internet]. New York: About, Inc.; c2021. AUDIT or Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test; 2020 Nov 27 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-use-disorders-identification-test-69492
  24. Very Well Mind [Internet]. New York: About, Inc.; c2021. Brief Interventions Effective for Some Drinking Problems; 2020 Oct 19 [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com/brief-interventions-effective-for-some-drinking-problems-66590
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  27. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; c2021. Management of substance abuse: Screening and brief intervention for alcohol problems in primary health care; [cited 2021 Feb 25]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/activities/sbi/en
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FAQs

What 3 tests can be used to detect alcohol? ›

About Alcohol Testing
  • Urine Alcohol Tests. A urine alcohol test (such as the EtG test) detects alcohol metabolites, which indicates that the person has recently consumed alcohol. ...
  • Breath Alcohol Testing. ...
  • Blood (PEth) Alcohol Tests. ...
  • Hair Alcohol Screening.

What is the most effective screening tool for alcohol misuse? ›

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was most effective in identifying subjects with at-risk, hazardous, or harmful drinking (sensitivity, 51%-97%; specificity, 78%-96%), while the CAGE questions proved superior for detecting alcohol abuse and dependence (sensitivity, 43%-94%; specificity, 70%-97%).

What types of alcohol tests are there? ›

Three Types of BAC Testing
  • BAC Breath Test. Breath testing is the most common method used by law enforcement to estimate BAC because breath analysis devices, or breathalyzers, are lightweight, portable, and provide immediate results. ...
  • BAC Blood Test. ...
  • BAC Urine Test.

How do doctors test for alcoholism? ›

While there are no specific tests to diagnose alcohol use disorder, certain patterns of lab test results may strongly suggest it. And you may need tests to identify health problems that may be linked to your alcohol use. Damage to your organs may be seen on tests. Complete a psychological evaluation.

What is an alcohol screening test? ›

Alcohol use screening tests are questionnaires designed to find out if you have alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a pattern of excessive drinking that can cause serious problems in your work, relationships, and health. AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe.

How far back can a blood test show alcohol? ›

Alcohol detection tests can measure alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, on the breath for 12 to 24 hours, urine for 12 to 24 hours (72 or more hours with more advanced detection methods), saliva for 12 to 24 hours, and hair for up to 90 days.

Will a routine blood test show alcohol? ›

The short answer is yes: blood testing can show heavy alcohol use.

Which liver function test shows alcohol abuse? ›

Gamma–Glutamyltransferase

Elevated serum GGT level remains the most widely used marker of alcohol abuse.

How would you test for the presence of alcohol in a liquid? ›

The presence of an alcohol can be determined with test reagents that react with the -OH group. The initial test to identify alcohols is to take the neutral liquid, free of water and add solid phosphorus(V) chloride. A a burst of acidic steamy hydrogen chloride fumes indicate the presence of an alcohol.

Can a regular blood test detect alcohol? ›

Blood: Alcohol is eliminated from the bloodstream at about 0.015 per hour. Alcohol can show up in a blood test for up to 12 hours. Urine: Alcohol can be detected in urine for up 3 to 5 days via the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test or 10 to 12 hours via the traditional method.

Which liver function test shows alcohol abuse? ›

Gamma–Glutamyltransferase

Elevated serum GGT level remains the most widely used marker of alcohol abuse.

What liver tests show alcohol damage? ›

Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase test.

This test is often performed to assess liver function, to provide information about liver diseases, and to detect alcohol ingestion.

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