Two key questions for GP to identify a drink problem

There was an article in The Independent recently that stated that:

Two questions is all it could take to establish whether a person currently suffers from or is at risk of a drink problem, a study for GPs says.

‘How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?’ and ‘as a result of your drinking or drug use, did anything happen in the last year that you wish didn’t happen?’ are the two enquiries a GP could make to detect hidden alcohol abuse, it claims.

Scientists from the University of Leicester, led by consultant in psycho-oncology Alex Mitchell, looked at 17 previous alcohol studies spanning 5,646 people to see whether simple preliminary screening using one or two questions could provide an accurate foundation for intervention.

The team found that the “optimal approach appears to be two questions” followed by a possible four more.

If this was completed then it “achieved an overall accuracy of 90.9 per cent and required only 3.3 questions per attendee.”

The study was published today in the British Journal of General Practice.

I really like this idea and think it should be implemented across all GP practices immediately.  I suspect it won’t be though because firstly the Govt don’t want to see we have a problem as then resources would need to be allocated to manage and resolve it. Secondly being a GP does not make you exempt from being a person who potential has a drink problem.  Asking this question of others makes it uncomfortable on yourself and denial being as powerful as it is I could see resistance to their use being expressed and experienced.  I hope I’m wrong and if you’d been asked these questions would you have answered them honestly?  I’m not sure I would have …….


64 days to go


12 thoughts on “Two key questions for GP to identify a drink problem

    1. Oh er missus! 🙂 Would you have answered the questions honestly if asked? Just curious 😉

      1. Yes, I think I would. Even if I didn’t I would go away and think about my true answers. Whether this would make any difference to my drinking would have depended on my being in the right frame of mind and actually wanting to modify things. I knew the answers were bad long before I was ready to do something about it. Rx

      2. Thanks for your honesty Rachel 🙂 And I think my answer would have been the same – it would have depended on my frame of mind and how ready I was to address my issue with drinking x

  1. Being asked would have made me *deeply* uncomfortable and I probably would have lied, but then again, that simple discussion – my discomfort and my inability to lie fluently – would probably have alerted the doc to the fact there was an issue. FWIW, I don’t think they ask enough, if at all. I think if you go with symptoms of depression, they should ask. (I was never asked.) Do doctors have higher drinking rates than the general population? (I’ve always assumed so, maybe really unfairly!) But either way, a GP who is drinking heavily is also going to find it really hard to have this conversation. GPs who don’t drink at all might not be aware of how it might be an issue. I think more training amongst GPs on implementing a strategy like this could only be a good thing. xxx

    1. Hey MTM It would have made me deeply uncomfortable too. I’m not sure the GP necessarily would have picked up on your discomfort and stilted answer, but we would like to think that they would! They don’t ask enough and I completely agree about the link with depression – I was never asked either. I’m not sure that GP’s have higher drinking rates than the general population but in my experience I hung out with the hard partying group so they matched and exceeded my drinking levels, or so it seemed! More training amongst GP’s would be a critical first step in addressing the issue and it’s detection, both within themselves and their patient caseload xx

  2. I know I wouldn’t have answered honestly. At least I know I wouldn’t while I was in denial and didn’t want to know how my health. And, like you pointed out, the govt doesn’t want to know…wouldn’t want to upset their friends the drinks industry would they?(sarcasm)…have a good sober week-end! xx

    1. Me too Lori. The amount of times I didn’t tell the truth when asked by my GP or practice nurse. It’s hard to be honest with someone else when we can’t even be honest with ourselves isn’t it? Interestingly a UK documentary film that’s coming out later this year called ‘A Royal Hangover’ just had their promo trailer deleted by Youtube – makes you wonder how far the drinks industry really will go? xx

  3. I’m another one who wouldn’t have answered honestly. and am particularly horrified (though not surprised) that alcohol dependence problems are not checked for with patients presenting with anxiety/depression issues?!?! that is just bonkers, sorry!

    1. Hey Prim. You are in good company about the not fessing up to the truth with the dr 😉 Your horror is justified as yep just not asked – don’t know why, probably a training thing again! xx

  4. I wouldn’t have told the truth. But I think you’re right, the bigger issue is that in a culture of heavy drinking, everyone is complicit, so doctors who are drinkers (or are comfortable with being around other people’s heavy drinking) are going to treat these questions really lightly, if they ever even ask them. The research seems like another case of trying to address a social problem at the level of the individual, which misses the point. Thanks as always for the thought-provoking posts! xo

    1. Nicely summarised thirstystill 🙂 The cultural and societal elephant in the room xx

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