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Ann Intern Med. 1991 Nov 15;115(10):774-7.

Screening for alcohol abuse using CAGE scores and likelihood ratios.

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  • 1Medical College of Virginia, Richmond 23298.



To assess the performance of the CAGE (acronym referring to four questions, see below) questionnaire in discriminating between medicine outpatients with and without an alcohol abuse or dependence disorder.


A cross-sectional design of a sample of consecutive patients who received both the alcohol module of the diagnostic interview schedule and the CAGE (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener) screening questionnaire.


The outpatient medical practice of an urban university teaching hospital.


All patients 18 years or older who signed a consent form approved by the university's institutional review board.


Calculation of the sensitivity, specificity, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve, and likelihood ratio for CAGE scores of 0 to 4.


Thirty-six percent of the sample group met criteria for a history of alcohol abuse or dependence. A CAGE score of 2 or more was associated with a sensitivity and specificity of 74% and 91%. The calculated area under the ROC curve was 0.89, whereas the likelihood ratios for CAGE scores of 0 to 4 were 0.14, 1.5, 4.5, 13, and 100, respectively. These ratios were associated with posterior probabilities for an abuse or dependence disorder of 7%, 46%, 72%, 88%, and 98%, respectively.


Clinicians can improve their ability to estimate a patient's risk for an alcohol abuse or dependence disorder using likelihood ratios for CAGE scores.

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