Alcohol screening may be associated with health outcomes that cluster with alcohol use (ie, alcohol-clustering conditions), including depression, anxiety, and use of tobacco, marijuana, and illicit drugs.
To quantify the extent to which alcohol screening provides additional information regarding alcohol-clustering conditions and to compare 2 alcohol use screening tools commonly used for this purpose.
This longitudinal cohort study used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. Data were collected at 8 Veterans Health Administration facilities from 2003 through 2012. A total of 7510 participants were enrolled, completed a baseline survey, and were followed up. Veterans with HIV were matched with controls without HIV by age, race, sex, and site of care. Data were analyzed from January 2019 to December 2019.
The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) were used to assess alcohol use, with 4 risk groups delineated for each test: score 0 to 7 (reference), score 8 to 15, score 16 to 19, and score 20 to 40 (maximum score) for the full AUDIT and score 0 to 3 (reference), score 4 to 5, score 6 to 7, and score 8 to 12 (maximum score) for the AUDIT-C.
Alcohol-clustering conditions, including self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety and use of tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, other stimulants, opioids, and injection drugs.
A total of 6431 US patients (6104 [95%] men; median age during survey years 2003-2004, 50 years [range, 28-86 years; interquartile range, 44-55 years]) receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration completed 1 or more follow-up surveys when the AUDIT was administered and were included in the present analyses. Of the male participants, 4271 (66%) were African American, 1498 (24%) were white, and 590 (9%) were Hispanic. The AUDIT and AUDIT-C scores were associated with each alcohol-clustering condition. In particular, an AUDIT score of 20 or higher (vs <8, the reference) was associated with symptoms of depression (odds ratio [OR], 8.37; 95% CI, 6.20-11.29) and anxiety (OR, 8.98; 95% CI, 6.39-12.60) and with self-reported use of tobacco (OR, 14.64; 95% CI, 8.94-23.98), marijuana (OR, 12.41; 95% CI, 8.61-17.90), crack or cocaine (OR, 39.47; 95% CI, 27.38-56.90), other stimulants (OR, 21.31; 95% CI, 12.73-35.67), and injection drugs (OR, 8.67; 95% CI, 5.32-14.13). An AUDIT score of 20 or higher yielded likelihood ratio (sensitivity / 1 - specificity) values greater than 3.5 for depression, anxiety, crack or cocaine use, and other stimulant use. Associations between AUDIT-C scores and alcohol-clustering conditions were more modest.
Alcohol screening can inform decisions about further screening and diagnostic assessment for alcohol-clustering conditions, particularly for depression, anxiety, crack or cocaine use, and other stimulant use. Future studies using clinical diagnoses rather than screening tools to assess alcohol-clustering conditions may be warranted.

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