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New Guidelines Say Doctors Should Screen All Adults for 'Risky' Drinking
Date:5/14/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- Primary care doctors should screen all adults for drinking problems, and offer them counseling if needed, new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest.

Based on years of research, there is enough evidence that a quick screen at the doctor's office can spot "risky" drinking, according to the task force, an independent panel of medical experts that makes recommendations on screening and other preventive health services.

The new guidelines, published online May 14 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are the panel's "final" recommendations on screening for problem drinking. The last recommendations came out in 2004.

Since then, more research has been conducted, explained task force member Dr. Michael LeFevre, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia.

In particular, LeFevre said, there's evidence that doctors can catch risky drinking by asking just one question: How many times in the past year have you had five or more drinks in a day (if you're a man), or four or more drinks (if you're a woman or older than 65)?

If a patient acknowledges drinking that much, the doctor can ask more questions to see how deep the problem goes.

An alcohol abuse expert not involved in the recommendations said the advice to screen all adults is "right on."

"It's very well-supported by the literature," said Dr. Marc Schuckit, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and editor of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The updated recommendations also clarify what doctors should be looking for: the full range of what the task force calls alcohol "misuse."

That ranges from "risky" drinking, where people down more alcohol than they should, to the more severe problems of alcohol abuse and alcohol depende
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