Screening for alcoholism: techniques and issues

Public Health Rep. 1988 Nov-Dec;103(6):586-92.


Alcoholism is an often overlooked health problem because alcoholics usually do not seek treatment for their drinking problems. They do, however, seek general medical care for other health reasons, and a number of screening techniques have proven useful for identifying alcoholics. The advantages and disadvantages of self-report, as well as biochemical techniques that have been found effective in screening for alcoholism, are discussed. We recommend that future research be aimed at developing quick, accurate, and inexpensive screening devices that also can evaluate the severity of the alcohol problem. Ideally, screening procedures would discourage feigned responses, differentiate between drinking and consequences of drinking, and permit the identification of subtypes of alcoholics. Better understanding of the types of errors made by common screening instruments would enable researchers to construct an optimal sequencing strategy for screening for alcoholism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Humans
  • MMPI
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Research
  • Self-Assessment


  • Biomarkers