Diagnosis of alcohol use disorders in schizophrenia

Schizophr Bull. 1990;16(1):57-67. doi: 10.1093/schbul/16.1.57.


Alcohol use disorders are common comorbid conditions in schizophrenia, and their presence is associated with poor adjustment and poor treatment response. Standard alcohol assessment instruments have not been validated for use with schizophrenic patients, and several authors have questioned the validity of these patients' self-reports. A reliable and valid screening procedure for assessing alcohol use is needed. The present study used the following three methods to evaluate a rural sample of 75 outpatients with DSM-III-R schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder: (1) clinical records; (2) research interviews using standard alcohol assessment instruments; and (3) case managers' ratings. In addition, consensus diagnoses, determined by combining information from all three methods with intensive case reviews, were used to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the other approaches. As expected, clinical evaluations frequently missed alcohol problems. Research interviews and case managers' ratings differentiated between alcoholic and nonalcoholic schizophrenic patients and were highly correlated. Case managers' ratings, which incorporated longitudinal observations of behavior and collateral reports as well as interview data, were more sensitive measures of current alcohol use disorders than research interviews. Subjects frequently manifested alcohol-related problems that interfered with community adjustment without the full dependence syndrome, suggesting that schizophrenic patients may be particularly vulnerable to negative effects of alcohol.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Social Adjustment