Identification of hazardous/harmful drinking among subcritically injured patients

P. R. Clifford, F. Sparadeo, P. A. Minugh, T. D. Nirenberg, R. Woolard, R. Longabaugh, B. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine the relationship between a saliva alcohol test (SAT) and hazardous/harmful drinking, as measured by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), among a sample of subcritically injured patients. Methods: Patients (n = 78) seeking treatment for a subcritical injury were saliva-tested for alcohol and interviewed regarding their drinking behaviors and related difficulties. Associations of SAT values with AUDIT results were determined. Results: SAT results and hazardous/harmful drinking were not independent events (p < 0.001). Estimates of sensitivity and specificity (using a dichotomous SAT result [≥4 mmol/L] to identify positive AUDIT patients) were 65.2% and 83.6%, respectively. SAT- positive people had significantly higher AUDIT scores than did SAT-negative individuals (p < 0.0001). Patients experiencing assault-type injuries were much more likely to be SAT-positive than were patients incurring other types of injury. Discriminant function analysis suggests that AUDIT scores can successfully identify SAT-positive and SAT-negative patients; the analysis accounted for 42.5% of the variance and correctly classified 84.6% of the sample. Conclusions: The use of an easy-to-administer, noninvasive, routine SAT, among patients presenting for a subcritical injury in a hospital ED, provides a mechanism for the identification of individuals with a history of hazardous/harmful drinking. However, since discrimination of hazardous/harmful drinking is imperfect, some caution is warranted when conducting such screening activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-245
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine


  • alcoholism
  • behavior
  • change behavior
  • emergency department
  • injury
  • saliva alcohol test
  • wounds

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