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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 Jan;70(1):50-4.

Three brief alcohol screens for detecting hazardous drinking in incarcerated women.

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Butler Hospital, 345 Blackstone Blvd, Providence, Rhode Island 02906, USA.



Screening methods for hazardous drinking have not been evaluated in a population of incarcerated women. This study examines abbreviated versions of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) heavy episodic drinking criterion in a sample of female detainees.


A total of 2,079 women at the Adult Correctional Institute in Rhode Island were approached for screening between February 2004 and June 2007. The AUDIT-consumption (AUDIT-C), AUDIT-3, and the NIAAA heavy episodic drinking criterion (four or more drinks on one occasion for women) were compared with the full AUDIT at different cut points.


More than 55% of the sample endorsed an AUDIT score of 4 or greater--the NIAAA recommended threshold for detecting hazardous drinking. The three-item AUDIT-C with a cut score of 3 yielded a classification most consistent with the AUDIT score of 4 or more; sensitivity and specificity exceeded .9, and 91.5% of participants were correctly classified. The AUDIT-3 and NIAAA episodic drinking criteria were less sensitive measures. We found no evidence of interactions between the screening instruments and age or ethnicity.


The three-item AUDIT-C has robust test characteristics for detecting hazardous drinking in female inmates. Universal screening for hazardous drinking is recommended for incarcerated women, given their high rates of alcohol misuse.

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