Validity of brief alcohol screening tests among adolescents: a comparison of the AUDIT, POSIT, CAGE, and CRAFFT

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2003 Jan;27(1):67-73. doi: 10.1097/01.ALC.0000046598.59317.3A.


Background: Adolescents should be screened for alcohol misuse as part of routine care. The objective of this study was to compare the criterion validity of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the Problem Oriented Screening Instrument for Teenagers substance use/abuse scale (POSIT), and the CAGE and CRAFFT questions among adolescents.

Methods: Fourteen- to 18-year-old patients arriving for routine healthcare at a large, hospital-based adolescent clinic completed the four screens and the criterion standard Adolescent Diagnostic Interview, which yields DSM-IV diagnoses of alcohol abuse and dependence. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were plotted to determine optimal cut-points. Areas under the ROC curves of the four screens were compared, and sensitivities and specificities were calculated.

Results: Participants' past 12-month alcohol diagnostic classifications were as follows: no use (58.6%), nonproblem use (13.0%), problem use (20.8%), abuse (5.4%), and dependence (2.2%). Optimal cut-points associated with problem use or higher were 2 for AUDIT, 1 for POSIT, 1 for CAGE, and 1 for CRAFFT. ROC curve area of the CAGE was significantly lower compared with areas of all other screens. Sensitivities (95% confidence intervals) were AUDIT 0.88 (0.83-0.93), POSIT 0.84 (0.79-0.90), CAGE 0.37 (0.29-0.44), and CRAFFT 0.92 (0.88-0.96); specificities were AUDIT 0.81 (0.77-0.85), POSIT 0.89 (0.86-0.92), CAGE 0.96 (0.94-0.98), and CRAFFT 0.64 (0.59-0.69).

Conclusions: The AUDIT, POSIT, and CRAFFT have acceptable sensitivity for identifying alcohol problems or disorders in this age group. The CAGE is not recommended for use among adolescents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male