What is Alcoholism

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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

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Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous

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Acupuncture for alcohol and other addictions


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What is Alcoholism

Alcoholism Treatment Video: Twenty Questions About Alcohol Abuse

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has developed the following low-risk drinking guidelines:

Alcoholism develops slowly over a patient’s lifetime and it can begin at any age. It often occurs in individuals with no history of psychological problems. When the substance causing addiction is readily available, inexpensive, and rapid acting, abuse will increase. Whenever the individual is ignorant of healthy alcohol use, susceptible to heavily using peers, or has a high genetic predisposition to abuse or to antisocial personality disorder, abuse may increase. This is also true if the patient is poorly socialized into the culture, in pain, or if the culture makes the substance the recreational drug of choice.
Risk Factors
Risk factor 1: Alcohol is readily available.
Risk factor 2: Alcohol is cheap.
Risk factor 3: Alcohol reaches the brain quickly.
Risk factor 4: Alcohol is effective as a tranquilizer.
Risk factor 5: Alcoholism is more common in certain occupations (bartending).
Risk factor 6: Drinking peer group.
Risk factor 7: Alcohol is preferred in deviant subcultures.
Risk factor 8: Social instability.
Risk factor 9: Genetic predisposition.
Risk factor 10: Dysfunctional families.
Risk factor 11: Comorbid psychiatric disorders (Vaillant, 2003).
How to diagnose an alcohol problem
In the assessment, you must determine if the patients fit into your range of experience and care. Do you have the ability to help them with their problem or do you need to refer? Do they have a problem with chemicals? Are they motivated to get better? Do they have the resources necessary for treatment? Are they well enough to see you? For the most part, you will start by asking yourself certain basic questions: Does this person have a problem with alcohol? Does she or he need treatment? Is he or she motivated for treatment? What kind of treatment does she or he need? For the benefit of third party payors, it is important to use assessment instruments to properly document (1) diagnosis, (2) severity of addiction, and (3) motivation and rehabilitation potential. Reviewers will often have more faith in a test battery than your clinical opinion. 
There are a number of companies that sell inexpensive, disposable breathalyzers and drug screening instruments, including Prevent (1-800-624-1404); Bi-TechNostix (1-888-339-9964); Random Drug Screens, Inc. (1-803-772-0027); Drug Screens, Inc. (1-800-482-0693) and many others. Order a number of these tests and have them readily available for assessment, treatment and continued care monitoring. Positive tests are only suggestive of drug and alcohol use so before any legal or workplace action is taken, the test should be confirmed by both an approved immunoassay and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, which can be administered and analyzed by a healthcare provider (? Ron—where do you get these results?). 
Two quick screening tests for alcoholism have been developed: the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test SMAST (Appendix 2) and the CAGE Questionnaire (Appendix 1), (Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1975; Ewing, 1984). The SMAST is a 13-question version of the original Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST). The SMAST has been shown to be as effective as the MAST. It has greater than 90% sensitivity to detect alcoholism. It can be administered to either the patient or the spouse.
The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) (1-800-726-0526) (https://www.sassi.com) was developed to screen patients when defensive and in denial. The SASSI measures defensiveness and the subtle attributes that are common in chemically dependent persons. It is a difficult test to fake, unlike the MAST or the CAGE. Patients can complete the SASSI in ten to 15 minutes, and it takes a minute or two to score. It identifies accurately 98% of patients who need residential treatment, 90% of non-users, and 87% of early stage abusers. This is a good test for those patients with whom you are still unsure about the diagnosis after your first few interviews, patients who continue to be evasive (G. A. Miller, 1985).
The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) and the Teen-Addiction Severity Index (T-ASI) (1-215-399-0980) are widely used, structured interviews for adults and teens, which are designed to provide important information about the severity of the patient's substance abuse problem. These instruments assess seven dimensions typically of concern in chemical dependency, including medical status, employment/support status, drug/alcohol use, legal status, family history, family/social relationships, and psychiatric status. The tests are designed to be administrated by a trained technician and take about an hour. The ASI is an excellent tool for delineating the patient’s case management needs (McLellan, Luborsky & Woody, 1980; Kaminer, Bukstein, & Tarter, 1991).
The Adolescent Alcohol Involvement Scale (AAIS) is a 14-item, self-report questionnaire that takes about 15 minutes to administer. It evaluates the type and frequency of drinking, the last drinking episode, reasons for the onset of drinking behavior, drinking context, short- and long-term effects of drinking, perceptions about drinking and how others perceive his or her drinking (Mayer & Filstead, 1979).
The Adolescent Drinking Index (ADI) (1-813-968-3003) is a 24-item, self-administered test that evaluates problem drinking in adolescents through assessment of psychological symptoms, physical symptoms, social symptoms and loss of control (Harrell, Honaker & Davis, 1991).
The RAATE-CE (Mee-Lee, Hoffman & Smith, 1992) (1-800-755-6299) is a 35-item scale that assesses treatment readiness and examines patient awareness of problems, behavioral intent to change, capacity to anticipate future treatment needs and medical, psychiatric or environmental complications. The RAATE-CE determines the patient’s level of acceptance and readiness to engage in treatment and targets impediments to change.
How to Intervene

Positive and Negative Prognostic Factors
Positive Prognostic Factors

Negative Prognostic Factors