Volume 18, Number 5
July/August 2001

Twenty Questions for Problem Drinkers

By Michael Sweeney and Meloney Crawford Chadwick

Lawyers are trained in problem identification, but when it comes to identifying alcoholism, a few basic questions will suffice. The following four-question test will assist you in determining whether you, a client, or a colleague has a problem with alcohol, and was developed by Dr. John Ewing for use during National Alcoholism Screening Day.

1. Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people annoyed or angered you by criticizing your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty from your drinking?
4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Two or more positive answers to the four questions represent a 90 percent accuracy rate for alcoholism. However, if a more detailed interview is called for, the following test is available.

Twenty Questions for Problem Drinkers                                                                         Yes   No

1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4. Is drinking affecting your reputation?
5. Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?
6. Have you ever gotten into financial difficulties as a result of your drinking?
7. Do you worry that you have a problem with alcohol?
8. Do you ever drink more than you intend to consume?
9. Do you want a drink the next morning?
10. Have you gotten into physical fights when drinking?
11. Has your drinking ever created problems between you and your wife, husband,
a parent, or other relative?
12. Has your efficiency decreased since you've been drinking?
13. Have you ever lost friends because of your drinking?
14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15. Is drinking affecting your sleep pattern?
16. Do you drink to escape worries or troubles?
17. Do you drink alone?
18. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
19. Have you ever been to a hospital, institution, or had medical problems related to drinking?
20. Have you ever been arrested or taken into custody, even for a few hours, because of behavior while drinking (i.e., DUI, domestic violence, etc.)?

A "yes" answer to any one of these questions indicates a drinking problem, and three or more positive answers provides a high degree of certainly that one is an alcoholic. A more detailed, confidential assessment can be done through your local lawyer assistance program. To contact the lawyer assistance program nearest you, call the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs at 800/285-2221 ext. 5359 or at 312/988-5359.

Michael Sweeney and Meloney Crawford Chadwick are program attorneys at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

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