Diagnosis of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
by Amy Scholten, MPH
It may not be easy for you to accept the fact that you need help for an alcohol problem. But keep in mind that the sooner you get help, the better your chances are for a successful recovery.
You may have concerns about discussing drinking-related problems with your doctor. This may stem from common misconceptions about alcoholism and people who have alcoholism. In our society, some people may perceive alcohol problems as a sign of moral weakness. As a result, you may feel that to seek help is to admit some type of shameful defect in yourself. However, taking steps to identify a possible drinking problem has an enormous payoff: a chance for a healthier, more rewarding life.
A diagnosis of alcohol abuse or alcoholism is often based on an initial assessment, physical examination, and psychological evaluation.
When you visit your doctor, she will ask you a number of questions about your alcohol use to determine whether you are having problems related to your drinking. Try to answer these questions as fully and honestly as you can. These are some of the questions you may be asked:
Physical Examination and Tests
You also will be given a physical examination, which may include the following tests:
If your doctor concludes that you may be dependent on alcohol, she may recommend that you see a specialist in alcoholism. You should be involved in any referral decisions and have all treatment choices explained to you.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.
Carson RC, Butcher JN, Mineka S. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life . 11th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon; 2000.
Helping patients who drink too much: a clinician’s guide. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.... . Accessed April 14, 2007.