Screening Tool Identifies Adolescents Who Have Alcohol and Drug Problems

Study of youth alcohol diagnostic screening tools

Researchers at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS) evaluated existing alcohol diagnostic screening tools to develop a quick, low-cost way to identify adolescents who might benefit from alcohol-use interventions.

Key Findings

  • Of the three alcohol-use diagnostic screening tools evaluated, AUDIT most reliably identified teenagers fitting criteria for an alcohol-related diagnosis, as specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

    AUDIT is a 10-question screening tool developed to identify problem drinkers in primary care settings.
  • Certain DSM-IV criteria appear more appropriate than others for use with adolescents:
    • "Drinking more or longer than intended" was the item that best predicted having a diagnosis of alcohol dependence.
    • "Use despite psychological or physical consequences" was also a good predictor of alcohol dependence.
    • Signs of withdrawal appear to have limited screening value among adolescents.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $46,000.