Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Clinical versus laboratory detection of alcohol abuse: the alcohol clinical index.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 292 doi: (Published 28 June 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;292:1703
  1. H A Skinner,
  2. S Holt,
  3. W J Sheu,
  4. Y Israel


    To determine reliable indicators of alcohol abuse a comprehensive set of clinical and laboratory information was acquired from three groups of subjects with a wide range of drinking histories: 131 outpatients with alcohol problems, 131 social drinkers, and 52 patients from family practice. Findings from clinical examination provided greater diagnostic accuracy than laboratory tests for detecting alcohol abuse. Logistic regression analysis produced an overall accuracy of 85-91% for clinical signs, 84-88% for items from the medical history, and 71-83% for laboratory tests in differentiating the three groups. Further analyses showed 17 clinical signs and 13 medical history items that formed a highly diagnostic instrument (alcohol clinical index) that could be used in clinical practice. A probability of alcohol abuse exceeding 0.90 was found if four or more clinical signs or four or more medical history items from the index were present. Despite recent emphasis on the laboratory diagnosis of alcohol abuse simple clinical measures seem to provide better diagnostic accuracy.