Have you ever wondered if you drink too much? The CAGE questionnaire is a screening tool that can be used by yourself or your healthcare provider to see if you have a problem that needs evaluation. It’s not used to diagnose alcoholism, only as a way to see if a person possibly needs help or support.
The questions are:
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves
or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?
If you answer “yes” to 2 or more questions, that’s an indication of an alcohol problem.
There are the different levels of misuse:
- Risky or hazardous use–having more than 4 drinks in one day for men or more than 3 drinks in one day for women
- Harmful use–drinking that causes physical or mental harm (i.e. falls, high blood pressure, unclear thinking)
- Alcohol abuse–drinking that causes a person to lose his job or have decreased work or school performance, neglect home responsibilities, driving while drunk, and/or have legal or social problems
- Alcohol dependence (alcoholism)–a craving for alcohol, physical dependence (get the shakes without a drink), loss of control over drinking, and a need to drink an increased amount to feel the effect.
For those with a positive screen that fall under the “Risky or hazardous use”or “Harmful use” categories, brief counseling with more than one session has been found to be effective. For those who fall in the “Alcohol abuse” or “Alcohol dependence” categories, brief counseling hasn’t been shown to work well; a treatment program with ongoing support would be more effective.
I’ve noticed that a lot of my patients are really not aware of what is considered “drinking in moderation.” For men, this would be no more than 2 drinks a day or no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, moderate drinking is no more than one drink a day or no more than 7 drinks per week. A drink is considered to be 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor.
Please see your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your alcohol use.