Missed alcohol diagnoses in hospital patients

te rates of alcohol use disorders detection among patients whose diagnostic interviews indicated the presence of alcohol use disorders.

"We found that alcohol diagnoses were reflected in the hospital records of fewer than half of those who evidenced an alcohol use disorder in their interview," said Dr. Smothers. "We are concerned about the low detection rates, but we also are concerned that only half of those detected had documentation of alcohol intervention or treatment referral."

Dr. Smothers and her colleagues note that in recent years, effective treatment options for alcohol dependence have been expanded to include medications. Physician advice and other brief interventions also have proved effective for nondependent individuals who drink at hazardous levels.

The researchers conclude that "hospitalization provides an excellent opportunity for identifying alcohol problems among patients and providing them with alcohol intervention or treatment referral services as needed." They add that screening patients for alcohol problems should be a routine part of the hospital admission process, and that concerted efforts are needed in education of medical students and residents, and in continuing medical education of practicing physicians, to address this problem.

NIAAA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this week announced a major collaborative study that will investigate ways to screen, identify, and treat patients in hospital emergency departments for alcohol problems. For more information, see: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/press/2004/NASD04-04.htm

NIAAA also has developed a Health Practitioner's Guide, titled "Helping Patients With Alcohol Problems," to assist physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in screening patients for alcohol problems and conducting brief interventions for those problems. The Guide is available on the

Contact: Ann Bradley
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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