Worried You Drink Too Much? Some Questions to Ask
Both of these questionnaires are used by specialists to screen for alcohol abuse in older people. (You can swap in the word “drug” for “alcohol” in most of the questions.) A "yes" answer to two or more questions below is seen as indication of a possible substance abuse problem:
- Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
- Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Be Honest With Your Answers
The second self-test included in the book is the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (Geriatric Version), or SMAST-G, which is recommended in guidelines from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Again, a score of two or more "yes" responses indicates a possible problem with substance abuse.
- When talking with others, do you ever underestimate how much you drink?
- After a few drinks, have you sometimes not eaten or been able to skip a meal because you didn’t feel hungry?
- Does having a few drinks help decrease your shakiness or tremors?
- Does alcohol sometimes make it hard for you to remember parts of the day or night?
- Do you usually take a drink to calm your nerves?
- Do you drink to take your mind off your problems?
- Have you ever increased your drinking after experiencing a loss in your life?
- Has a doctor or nurse ever said they were worried or concerned about your drinking?
- Have you ever made rules to manage your drinking?
- When you feel lonely, does having a drink help?
If you answered “yes” twice in either questionnaire, consider asking for help, and know that you aren’t alone. Baby boomers, at an estimated 76.5 million strong with their “high substance use rate,” are at the root of the increase. According to a report in the journal Addiction, the number of people with substance use disorder who are 50 and over — of any gender, race or ethnicity — is forecasted to double to 5.7 million in 2020.
By Nancy Wride
Follow Nancy on Twitter at @NWride