How is alcoholism diagnosed?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018
  • Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

The diagnosis of an alcohol problem is best made by the history. Laboratory tests have a sensitivity of no better than 50%, and physical examination is helpful only after the consequences of alcoholism are apparent. Early diagnosis based on a careful history can prevent such consequences. Physicians should use terms such as "person with an alcohol problem" rather than "alcoholic" or "addict," which are commonly used but demeaning shorthand terms.


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