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Am J Med. 1987 Feb;82(2):231-5.

Screening for alcohol abuse using the CAGE questionnaire.


A prospective study of 518 patients admitted to the orthopedic and medical services of a community-based teaching hospital during a six-month period was performed to test the hypothesis that a short, easily administered questionnaire would improve the detection rate by physicians of alcohol abuse. The CAGE questionnaire--a mnemonic for attempts to cut back on drinking, being annoyed at criticisms about drinking, feeling guilty about drinking, and using alcohol as an eye opener--was utilized as a screening instrument. The mean corpuscular volume of red blood cells, liver transaminase levels, and the gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase level were also evaluated as screening tests. The presence or absence of alcoholism and alcohol abuse for a consecutive sample of CAGE-negative patients and all patients answering "yes" to one or more of the CAGE questions was established through the administration of the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test, a detailed chart review, and analysis of quantity of alcohol consumed. Diagnostic criteria were those described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III. The prevalence of alcohol abuse was 20 percent. The mean corpuscular volume, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase value, and liver transaminase levels were very insensitive as screening tests. In contrast, the CAGE questionnaire had a sensitivity of 85 percent and a specificity of 89 percent. Only 63 percent of the alcoholic subjects and alcohol abusers were detected by their physicians, and in only 24 percent of these cases did a physician address the problem with the patient. The CAGE questionnaire is a simple, sensitive, and specific screening test for alcohol abusers.

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