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Doctors Often Fail to Detect Drinking Problems or Misdiagnose

Update Date: Aug 02, 2012 08:56 AM EDT

Doctors apparently have a hard time spotting drinking problems unless a patient turns up drunk, a study reveals. 

The study says that if patients are not already intoxicated, GPs on an average can only detect 40 percent of cases of problem drinkers.

For the study, an overview of 39 previous studies was conducted by Leicester University researchers, which involved 20,000 patients.

The findings revealed that while hospital doctors could diagnose 50 per cent cases, and mental health specialists could identify 55 per cent of problem drinkers.

According to the researchers, the problem lies with the fact that doctors fail to ask appropriate questions to the patients. It was found that even in studies where patients reported to drinking problems, the diagnosis rate did not get better. 

Apparently, only the diagnosis for alcohol intoxication was being satisfactorily diagnosed, with doctors diagnosing 90% of drunkenness cases correctly in A&E departments, according to the study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"When clinicians try and spot alcohol problems they often miss patients who have serious alcohol problems but who are not currently intoxicated. Further they can misidentify about 5 per cent of normal drinkers as problem drinkers," Dr Alex Mitchell, who led the study, was quoted as saying by Telegraph.

"We did not find that patients refused to admit alcohol problems, in fact it was more common for patients to disclose problem drinking when asked to self-report than the number found by clinicians' judgments alone."

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