Background: Screening for alcohol use in primary care settings is recommended by clinical care guidelines but is not adhered to as strongly as screening for smoking. It has been proposed that smoking status could be used to enhance the identification of alcohol misuse in primary care and other medical settings, but national data are lacking. Our objective was to investigate smoking status as a clinical indicator for alcohol misuse in a national sample of US adults, following clinical care guidelines for the assessment of these behaviors.
Methods: Analyses are based on a sample of 42 374 US adults from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (Wave I, 2001-2002). Odds ratios (ORs), 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and test characteristics (sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and positive likelihood ratio of smoking behavior [daily, occasional, or former]) were determined for the detection of hazardous drinking behavior and alcohol-related diagnoses, assessed by the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule-IV.
Results: Daily, occasional, and ex-smokers were more likely than never smokers to be hazardous drinkers (OR, 3.23 [95% CI, 3.02-3.46]; OR, 5.33 [95% CI, 4.70-6.04]; OR, 1.19 [95% CI, 1.10-1.28], respectively). Daily and occasional smokers were more likely to meet criteria for alcohol diagnoses (OR, 3.52 [95% CI, 3.19-3.90] and OR, 5.39 [95% CI, 4.60-6.31], respectively). For the detection of hazardous drinking by current smoking (occasional smokers + daily smokers), sensitivity was 42.5%; specificity, 81.9%; positive predictive value, 45.3% (vs population rate of 26.1%); and positive likelihood ratio, 2.34. For the detection of alcohol diagnoses by current smoking, sensitivity was 51.4%; specificity, 78.0%; positive predictive value, 17.8% (vs population rate of 8.5%); and positive likelihood ratio, 2.33.
Conclusions: Occasional and daily smokers were at heightened risk for hazardous drinking and alcohol use diagnoses. Smoking status can be used as a clinical indicator for alcohol misuse and as a reminder for alcohol screening in general.