Thursday, 13 May 2010

Are you an alcoholic?


From The Times:

Alcohol abuse is a bigger problem than post-traumatic stress disorder for British servicemen and women deployed in war zones, a study has concluded.

That's one way of reporting the story. The glass is always half empty at The Times, it seems, since the BBC preferred to go with the more positive...

Mental trauma 'not rife among UK troops'

Still, let's hear the evidence.

Overall, more than one in ten (13 per cent) of the respondents said that they were drinking alcohol in quantities defined by researchers as hazardous, according to the World Health Organisation’s Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (Audit).

13%? Light-weights! Aren't we routinely told that over a third of adults in the UK are drinking to 'hazardous levels'? Surely that means that the army's young, predominantly working class men are drinking less than the general population. Sounds a tad unlikely.

But no. The clue is in the reference to the WHO's Audit test, which is a very different barometer of drinking levels. 

There are two ways of measuring hazardous drinking. One is a units-per-week system based on no evidence at all which is used to scare the public into believing there is an alcohol epidemic. The other is the Audit test, which is used when doctors genuinely want to identify people who are drinking at hazardous levels. The Audit test is far more reliable as it doesn't hinge on some arbitrary figures that were plucked out of the air. Tellingly, it identifies far fewer people as 'hazardous drinkers'.

That's well worth bearing in mind next time you hear about a third of Britons drinking to hazardous levels. Even the doctors don't take it seriously in practice.

So, do you fancy finding out if you're a hazardous drinker by the WHO's real test? Off you go then. The points for each question are shown in brackets. 8 or more makes you a hazardous drinker. Cheers!

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

(0) Never (skip to Qs 9-10)
(1) Monthly or less
(2) 2 to 4 times a month
(3) 2 to 3 times a week
(4) 4 or more times a week

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?

(0) 1 or 2
(1) 3 or 4
(2) 5 or 6
(3) 7, 8 or 9
(4) 10 or more

3. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

4. How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

(0) Never
(1) Less than monthly
(2) Monthly
(3) Weekly
(4) Daily or almost daily

9. Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

(0) No
(2) Yes, but not in the last year
(4) Yes, during the last year

10. Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

(0) No
(2) Yes, but not in the last year
(4) Yes, during the last year


Scores between 8 and 15 are most appropriate for simple advice focused on the reduction of hazardous drinking.

Scores between 16 and 19 suggest brief counselling and continued monitoring

Scores of 20 or above clearly warrant further diagnostic evaluation for alcohol dependence.




19 comments:

Dick Puddlecote said...

I'm not doomed after all. A modest 14 ... and I didn't lie.

TheBigYin said...

Bugger!

Tony Palazzolo said...

When I was in college they had a very simple test. Two questions:

Do you drink alcohol?

If yes - are you an alcoholic? If you answer yes - you are. If you answer no then you are in the first stage of alcoholism - denial.

Fredrik Eich said...

Well despite scoring 6 zeros I still managed hit nine points. I only tend to drink on Saturday nights post smoking ban. But before the smoking ban I would go out and drink ~300 nights a year and would have scored higher. I feel like I am letting the side down! On this test, my granny who is 95 would get a higher score than me but she insists sipping sherry from morning to bedtime is the same as teetotal! It must her post Edwardian upbringing. She is teetotal by Edwardian standards - ie not teetotal at all!

timmbone said...

Ha! By the time I got to no.4 I wondered why I was still alive. Has anybody told them that most of us don't give a feck? I would certainly feel cheated if I died of good health.

Mark Wadsworth said...

I scored 21, for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

A slightly disappointing 12.
Hmmm, must do better.

A quote for Timbone..

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, cig in one hand, beer in the other, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"


Bald headed John.

Anonymous said...

"Is it true that you smoke eight to ten cigars a day?"

"That's true."

"Is it true that you drink five martinis a day?"

"That's true."

"Is it true that you still surround yourself with beautiful young women?"

"That's true."

"What does your doctor say about all of this?"

"My doctor is dead."

Comedian George Burns' answer to an interviewer while he was in his nineties.

Anonymous said...

These questions are very subjective and don't cover all options.

What is a drink containing alcohol? Does a shandy count? Is 6 shandies the same as 6 super strength beers, the same as 6 whiskies at 1/4 gill, the same as 6 whiskies at 1/6 gill etc etc.

Looks very waited to ensure you get more than 8 points.

Q1 gets the majority of people off to a flying start. Go to the pub once a week have 1 weak beer and have 1/2 a glass of wine with your Sunday roast and your off and running with 3 points.

Q6 I had a hair of the dog once when I was 20 (30 years ago) oops add another point.

No sir this is not any more scientific or objective than the units per week and may even be worse.

Fredrik Eich said...

I have looked at these questions before and I came to the conclusion that the questions that assess frequency and quantity of drinks consumed are fair enough. The problem that I have with it is the fact that the other questions are quite negative in inference. Where are the questions that assess any benefits of drinking? That the drinker is perfectly happy getting sloshed every night or day even? For example the question:

"How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?"

only measures negative feelings that are inferred to be because of drinking. How about a positive question to give a net value such as:

"How often during the last year have you had a feeling of satisfaction or relief after drinking?*"

I think what I am driving at is; how are these questions meant to measure the net value of drinking? It is not! It is only attempting to measure and/or precipitate negative emotional responses such as guilt and a sense of an absence of control.

*I'm not quite sure what the opposite emotions of guilt and remorse are; I'm guessing!

Snowdon said...

It's a very far from perfect system. You're 18, drunk, fall over and injure yourself. The next day someone tells you to cut down on your drinking. That's 4 points right there that carry over for the rest of your life.

It's still better than the units-per-week system though.

Furor Teutonicus said...

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?

(0) 1 or 2
(1) 3 or 4
(2) 5 or 6
(3) 7, 8 or 9
(4) 10 or more


WHAT is "a drink"?

There is a HEL of a difference between 10 double wodkas, and ten halves of bitter.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Replies on a post card, cus Google HATES me.

Anonymous said...

Sooner the pub drinkers get hammered the better.
The limp wristed,yellow bellied,
two timing, half hearted ,cowardly
shysters have sat back and allowed the smokers to be treated like lepers,
come and join us you apologies
for Britons
Two pence ha'penny weasels the lot
of you


Reay when you are,cringer.

Anonymous said...

Well, I scored 21.

Yet, at 42 years old, last night I went for a 7km run (I usually run around 14km per week, do over 200 push-ups and sit-ups) and smoked my normal 6-7 cigarettes. Today, I walked around a golf course (scored much, much more than 21, unfortunately) and am now sitting here with a beer trying to increase my score past 21.

Screw you, jobsworths. Go out and do something useful with your pitiful lives!

Anonymous said...

[Same Anon as above.]
BTW, I'm not trying to brag - just making the point that these tossers like imply that, unless you live your life according to their puritanical precepts, you could not possibly be "healthy" or "fit".

Not true, and in my opinion it's about time they were called out on that rubbish.

If you want to get fit, it doesn't matter if you smoke or drink - you can do it. [If you choose not to, I don't care either - you do what makes you feel good. You only have one life. Best not to spend it depriving yourself of the little pleasures and worrying about other people who refuse to do as they are told!]

PT Barnum said...

I scored 0. According to the results table I should be scoring at least 8 to be appropriate. Where's my counselling?

Anonymous said...

PT Barnum,

If you scored 0, then you are dead. Dead people don't qualify for either counselling or sympathy.

westcoast2 said...

If you scored 0, then you are dead

Good job I scored 4 then :)

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