The 5-Minute Alcoholism and Addiction Screener That Could Save Your Life

Mar 25, 2014

Have you ever thought to yourself after your third or fourth glass of wine, ‘Am I an alcoholic???’  Maybe you’ve been adding an extra pill or two to the prescription your doctor gave you for pain and thought, ‘I hope I’m not becoming addicted???’  These are pretty scary thoughts for anyone, but getting answers to your questions is one of the most important things you could ever do for yourself, not to mention, the people who love you.  Of course, there are professionals who would perform a thorough assessment in order to give you a diagnosis, but if you’re like I was, you might not be ready to take that “official” step.  There is a way to get a very good idea of how serious your problem with alcohol or drugs (or, like many women, both) is and it is completely confidential -- between you and a piece of paper -- and only takes about 5 minutes.

5-Minute Screening Tests – Do they really work?

There are several different self-screeners that have proven to be highly predictive, especially in screening for problems that have been building over time.  However, the single most important factor in the reliability of any of these tests is your honesty with yourself.  Assuming you are 100% honest with yourself as you answer the questions, you might learn that everything is fine.  On the other hand, you might learn that your problem is likely to be alcohol and/or drug dependence—the brain disease of alcoholism or addiction—that should really be carefully and thoroughly assessed and diagnosed by a professional who is certified in alcohol and drug addiction.  More about that later…

The five most well known screening tests which all have proven validity and reliability are the Michigan Alcohol (and Drug) Screening Test (MAST), CAGE, T-ACE, TWEAK and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).  The CAGE and AUDIT tend to be less predictive for women than they are for men, so we’ll focus on the other three.  T-ACE and TWEAK both tend to be predicative of women’s issues, but the first has only 4 questions and the second has only 5, so there’s more risk that a false positive or negative could result.  Therefore, we have chosen to suggest that you self- screen with the MAST.

The MAST is highly predictive of alcohol dependence

This is the oldest and most widely used screening test in the U.S., having been developed in 1971.  This 22-question test may seem simple at first glance, but has proven over time to have up to 98% effectiveness in identifying dependence on alcohol (and to a lesser extent, drugs).  It’s important to know that there is a difference between alcohol and/or dug dependence versus abuse.  Alcoholism or addiction is diagnosed when a person shows signs of a physical addiction, like increasing tolerance, cravings and/or withdrawal symptoms, and continues to drink or use drugs despite problems with physical health, mental health, and family or job responsibilities.  In substance abuse, a person’s drinking or use of drugs leads to problems, but not physical addiction.  That is why it’s absolutely essential to follow up on the results of your self-screener with a professional, so that you can receive an official diagnosis and seek further help if that is the recommendation.

Take the MAST

Click to take the test now.  You can trust that the only person who will see your results is you. All you need to do is answer each question with complete honesty and follow the scoring suggestions at the end.  The rest is up to you…

If you need a professional assessment

There are many alcoholism and addiction professionals who can help you take the important next step of getting a diagnosis.  Of course, Our Hope’s all-female staff includes Masters level Clinical Therapists certified in Alcoholism and Addiction who provide thorough bio-psycho-social assessments.  Regardless who you choose, we simply hope you do make this important choice to take the next step.  It could save your life.

Sources & Helpful Resources

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc.Am I AlcoholicAm I Drug - Alcohol Screening Tests Ideal for a Healthcare SettingThe Michigan Alcohol Screening TestThe New York Times Health Guide

Photo credit to Soul Whispers

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