Different tools have been developed to examine how people use alcohol. The Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI) is one of the commonly used assessments. This tool examines drinking behavior from a multidimensional perspective, so as to provide a detailed picture of alcohol use. Such tools can be useful for diagnosing alcohol abuse and for gauging the severity of such abuse.
Just because an individual drinks too much does not necessarily mean that they are physically dependent on alcohol. Some people go through a period of life where they drink too much, but such maladaptive behavior may just be temporary. These individuals may be drinking a lot out of boredom, or due to peer pressure. This alcohol abuse might cause problems at the time, but if the individual returns to social drinking or stops altogether, there should be no lasting effects.
There are other individuals who become physically dependent on alcohol. Their body adapts to high amounts of alcohol by building a tolerance to it. The cells of the body become accustomed to alcohol so much so, withdrawal symptoms develop when there is a fall in blood alcohol levels. This is referred to as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This syndrome can lead to many unpleasant effects such as hallucinations, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, gastric upset, and even seizures. Withdrawal from alcohol can be so severe that it sometimes ends in death.
The treatment required for alcohol dependency will differ from treatment for alcohol abuse without physical dependency. The individual who is not yet physically addicted may only require a minor intervention to bring about a change in behavior. Simply learning about the dangers of continued overindulgence may be enough to dissuade the person who is abusing alcohol.
The individual who is physically addicted to alcohol will usually need a far more intense intervention. It will be harder for this person to leave alcohol abuse behind, and they may find it impossible to do so without suitable support. Many of those who are alcohol dependent will require an extensive, in-patient program. Therefore, it is important to assess alcohol use in order to determine the best possible treatment.
Assessment of alcohol use is also needed to determine whether the individual is likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit. If a person has chronically abused alcohol over a relatively long period of time, they may need medical supervision during the initial withdrawal stages. If the withdrawal period is not managed successfully, it could lead to a medical emergency and even death.
The AUI can help determine the best treatment option for an individual seeking help. This self-administered questionnaire involves 228 questions. It provides 24 scales which provide data on the different dimensions of drinking. It breaks down alcohol use into three main areas:
* Drinking style
* Consequences of alcohol intake
* Perceived benefits of drinking alcohol
It usually takes an hour to complete the AUI, and once this is done there will be enough data to reach some conclusions. The completed AUI provides a graph representation that summarizes the client’s scores. This profile report can then be used for making decisions about treatment. This test can also help to highlight the differences between how the individual perceives alcohol as benefiting their life and the actual consequences of drinking.
The AUI is a self-administered questionnaire and this means that there can be concerns about its reliability. The person taking this test might misunderstand some of the questions, or provide answers which are misleading. The respondent also needs to be completely honest, but they may hide the truth or be in denial about the extent of their drinking behavior. This means then that the results of the test might not provide a clear picture. Despite these drawbacks, the Alcohol Use Inventory can be useful for determining the actions needed to help somebody with alcohol problems.
There are several alternative tests available for assessing levels of alcohol abuse. The DSM-IV is the most commonly used tool for alcohol dependency diagnosis. In Europe, the ICD-10 is usually favored, and this evaluates similar criteria as the DSM-IV.
If a clinician wishes to determine the risk of alcohol withdrawal they can also use the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment. This tool assesses for the 10 most common withdrawal symptoms. The higher the individual scores on this assessment, the more likely they will develop serious complications during withdrawal.
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