Attitudes towards alcohol of emergency department doctors trained in the detection of alcohol misuse

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2004 Sep;86(5):329-33. doi: 10.1308/147870804777.


Introduction: Alcohol misuse creates an immense burden for society, with problem drinkers too often constituting a neglected group. The Paddington Alcohol Test (PAT) is a useful screening tool in emergency departments.

Methods: Using a questionnaire, we assessed the attitudes of 127 emergency department junior doctors over 5 years to misuse detection using the PAT, in a centre with a well-defined protocol for detection and referral.

Results: The majority (99%) thought early detection important, and the emergency department an appropriate place for screening (98%). Most thought that treatment could be successful (98%), and the PAT a useful instrument for early detection (87%). However, 63% reported that they misuse alcohol at least once a month and 30% once or more a week.

Discussion and conclusions: Junior doctors trained in the detection of alcohol misuse have a very positive view of this work. However, this professional insight is in marked contrast to their personal misuse of alcohol. This paradox reflects the entrenched culture of alcohol use in the medical profession, perhaps learnt at medical school.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires