Alcohol Assessment

While there might be signs that someone you know is struggling with alcohol, it’s not always black and white. They might be hiding their alcohol problems or even coming up with excuses for their behavior.

An alcohol assessment takes the guesswork out of determining whether you (or a family member) are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction. An alcohol assessment can also help determine the severity of the addiction and whether the person would benefit from substance abuse treatment.

What is an Alcohol Assessment?

An alcohol assessment is a screening tool to help determine whether someone is potentially suffering from a substance abuse problem like alcohol use disorder (AUD).

These assessment tools come in questionnaire form, asking users about their alcohol consumption and other alcohol-related behaviors. It can help determine whether an addiction is present along with the severity of the addiction.

An alcohol evaluation can be administered privately by a trained medical professional (i.e., primary care doctor or mental health professional) upon request. Alternatively, some alcohol evaluations are court-ordered, usually due to a DUI.

There are a variety of different alcohol assessments available. While they might differ slightly, all alcohol assessments include questions that help determine the severity of a person’s drinking and if they have a problem.

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is one of the more commonly used alcohol assessments.

The test contains ten multiple-choice questions centered around how much and how often you drink alcohol. It also asks questions about any alcohol-related problems or reactions you might have encountered.

Each answer is scored on a points system. Any score higher than an eight may indicate an AUD.

AUDIT-C

The AUDIT-C is a shortened version of the more traditional AUDIT. Instead of ten questions, the AUDIT-C consists of three multiple-choice questions.

Like the standard AUDIT, each question is scored on a points system. The higher the score, the higher the chance of alcohol use disorder.

Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-Opener

The Cut Down Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-Opener (CAGE) test is an alcohol assessment test that consists of four yes or no questions.

The four questions are:

  1. Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you as a result of criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?

If you answer two or more of those questions with a “yes,” it might indicate that you are suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction.

Tolerance, Annoyed, Cut Down, Eye-Opener Test

The Tolerance, Annoyed, Cut Down, Eye-Opener (T-ACE) test is similar to the CAGE test but targets pregnant women. Just like the CAGE test, it consists of four yes or no questions.

The four questions are:

  1. How many drinks does it take to make you feel high?
  2. Have people annoyed you as a result of criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt as though you should cut down on your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?

Two or more answers of “yes indicate a possible AUD.

Screening with Brief Intervention (SBI) Tools

The SBI tests consist of yes or no questions targeted to developing brief interventions. These interventions are short-term counseling sessions and strategies designed to help people change their drinking habits.

If an SBI test shows that you are either at risk of or have an AUD, your clinician may recommend a long-term treatment plan.

Goals of Alcohol Assessments

The objective of an alcohol assessment is to help determine if someone might be struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction so that they can get the help that they need. It can also help determine the severity of a person’s alcohol-related issues.

However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) points out that alcohol assessments only show whether someone is likely to have an alcohol use disorder. An alcohol screening does NOT take the place of an actual diagnosis, which would need to be completed by a physician. However, alcohol assessments offer a good start and can point you in the right direction.

Alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to significant health complications such as liver disease or serious injury due to being under the influence. Identifying an alcohol-related issue early on via an alcohol assessment can help the person suffering avoid these life-changing health conditions.

Pros and Cons of Alcohol Assessments

While alcohol assessments can be largely beneficial, they may not be the right solution for everyone. Understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of alcohol evaluation can help you make the right decision for your well-being.

Potential Benefits

An alcohol assessment is a non-invasive way to help determine if someone is struggling with alcohol so that they can get the help they need before the condition worsens.

Below are some other pros of an alcohol assessment:

  • They can help uncover underlying medical issues related to drinking
  • They can help identify the severity of the drinking problem
  • They can help determine the best course of treatment

Possible Drawbacks

An alcohol assessment is only as good as the honesty of the person answering the questions. If the person taking the test is not honest and truthful, the test is not valuable.

Below are some other potential drawbacks of an alcohol assessment:

  • They can be expensive to obtain
  • They can be time consuming
  • They can be stressful

What to Expect from an Alcohol Assessment

While an alcohol assessment can be taken on your own or administered by a friend or family member, they are more commonly given by a physician or mental health professional.

During the alcohol assessment, the person administering the test will ask multiple choice or yes/no questions depending on the test used. You will answer each question honestly, and the person administering the test will record your answers.

Once you answer all the questions, the test administrator will use your answers to determine whether or not you have an alcohol-related issue. If results show that you do, the clinician will typically provide a referral for treatment.

How to Get an Alcohol Assessment

Alcohol assessments are typically administered by trained medical professionals such as clinicians or mental health professionals. These medical professionals can access alcohol assessments that they will use for patients. Speak with your doctor or therapist if you feel you need to be assessed for your alcohol habits.

Alternatively, some alcohol assessments, such as the AUDIT, can also be taken online.

What to Do After an Alcohol Assessment

These tests can be an excellent tool when seeking help for heavy drinking or other alcohol-related issues. If you or a loved one receives an alcohol assessment result indicating a need for treatment, you have multiple programs available.

Depending on the level of care you require, you can choose between an inpatient or an outpatient program. Outpatient programs are suitable for most individuals dealing with alcohol-related substance abuse issues.

An inpatient treatment program may be the better option for more severe cases or individuals with concurrent drug use (besides alcohol).

In situations where the individual is actively addicted to alcohol, they will likely require a medical detox period before any other treatment occurs. The withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be severe and life-threatening, so seek medical advice before quitting alcohol use.

Take an Alcohol Assessment

Speak with your doctor or mental healthcare provider if you are concerned about your drinking habits. They can set you up to receive an alcohol assessment to help point you in the right direction.

You can also call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find alcohol addiction treatment options in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol Assessments

What is the most common alcohol screening tool?

The most common alcohol screening tool is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).

What questions do they ask in an alcohol assessment?

Examples of common questions on an alcohol assessment include:

  • How often do you drink alcohol?
  • Have people annoyed you as a result of criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you failed to do something that was expected of you as a result of drinking?

What are some of the warning signs of alcohol abuse?

Warning signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Having trouble limiting your drinking
  • Getting cravings to drink
  • Struggling at work or school as a result of drinking
  • Continuing to drink even when you try and stop
  • Needing more and more alcohol to reach your desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

What is the difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse?

Alcohol dependence means there is a physical compulsion to drink. With dependence, the body has become used to regularly receiving alcohol. Dependence can be marked by cravings for alcohol and withdrawals when the person discontinues alcohol use.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, describes the consumption of alcohol outside of what is considered safe or healthy. Alcohol abuse can mean heavy drinking, binge drinking, or otherwise drinking alcohol irresponsibly. However, alcohol abuse does not always indicate a dependence or an addiction is present.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction GuideWritten by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

5 references
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, July 27). Alcohol use screening tests: Medlineplus medical test. MedlinePlus. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/alcohol-use-screening-tests/

  2. Stewart, S., Swain, S., NICE, & Royal College of Physicians, London. (2012, June). Assessment and management of alcohol dependence and withdrawal in the Acute Hospital: Concise guidance. Clinical medicine (London, England). Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4953492/

  3. WebMD. (n.d.). How does screening for Substance Use Disorders Work? WebMD. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/screening-substance-use-disorder?page=1#1

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Alcohol screening and brief intervention. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/practitioner/PocketGuide/pocket_guide.htm

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). NIAAA Publications. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa65/aa65.htm

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