A brief screening instrument for problem drinking in the emergency room: the RAPS4. Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen

J Stud Alcohol. 2000 May;61(3):447-9. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2000.61.447.


Objective: While a number of brief screening instruments for identifying problem drinkers have been tested in clinical settings, instruments have not been found to perform as well for women as for men, or to perform uniformly across ethnic groups. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a shortened version of the RAPS (Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen) in an emergency room (ER) sample (N = 1,429; 51% female) and to determine the most efficient ordering of the items.

Method: The sensitivity and specificity of each of the RAPS items were examined against current ICD-10 and DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence, and separately for harmful drinking or abuse. A four-item version of the RAPS (the RAPS4) was analyzed separately for men and for women, and for blacks, Hispanics and whites/others.

Results: Among the five original RAPS items, four items were found to be most efficient, with the single item of feeling guilt or remorse after drinking identifying 83% of those with alcohol dependence and 44% of those meeting criteria for harmful drinking or abuse. A positive response to any one of the four items (RAPS4) gave a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 87% for alcohol dependence, and sensitivity and specificity were consistently high across gender and ethnic subgroups. Sensitivity and specificity for harmful drinking or abuse were lower (55% and 79%, respectively).

Conclusions: Because of its brevity and high performance across demographic subgroups, the RAPS4 may hold promise in screening for alcohol use disorders in patient populations, and its utility warrants further evaluation in clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*