Alcohol-Use Disorders Are Common, But Treatable

Clinicians should screen for alcohol disorders
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- About one-quarter of individuals with alcohol-use disorders will seek help for their problems, and health care providers should routinely screen for alcohol dependence or abuse, according to a seminar published online Jan. 26 in The Lancet.

Marc A. Schuckit, M.D., of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), writes that roughly half of the risk of alcohol-use disorders is explained by genes, and the rest by gene-environment associations. Excessive alcohol use is associated with blackouts, temporary cognitive deficits, cardiovascular problems, certain cancers and gastrointestinal disease.

A brief, widely used questionnaire to screen for alcohol-use disorders is the CAGE questionnaire, which asks if patients have felt the need to cut down, been annoyed when criticized about alcohol, felt guilty about drinking, or ever needed alcohol to start the day, the author notes. Interventions with patients can include motivational interviewing, discussing ways to reduce or cease consumption, and identifying situations that encourage heavy drinking, he adds. Rehabilitation involves keeping motivation high, creating new attitudes about recovery, and reducing the risk of relapse, the author points out.

"The criteria for alcohol dependence are reliable, patients face substantial morbidity and mortality, and resources are available to identify patients with unhealthy drinking or alcohol-use disorders, and to offer treatment. Treatment can include motivational interviewing to help people to evaluate their situations, brief interventions to facilitate more healthy behaviors, cognitive-behavioral therapies, and the judicious use of drugs to improve outcomes for alcohol-use disorders," Schuckit concludes.

Schuckit directs a program funded by a grant to UCSD from the Anheuser-Busch Corporation and has advised pharmaceutical companies in the past.

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