Items in AFP with MESH term: Alcoholism
ABSTRACT: Alcoholism is one of the most common psychiatric disorders with a prevalence of 8 to 14 percent. This heritable disease is frequently accompanied by other substance abuse disorders (particularly nicotine), anxiety and mood disorders, and antisocial personality disorder. Although associated with considerable morbidity and mortality, alcoholism often goes unrecognized in a clinical or primary health care setting. Several brief screening instruments are available to quickly identify problem drinking, often a pre-alcoholism condition. Problem drinking can be successfully treated with brief intervention by primary care physicians. Alcohol addiction is a lifelong disease with a relapsing, remitting course. Because of the potentially serious implications of the diagnosis, assessment for alcoholism should be detailed. Alcoholism is treated by a variety of psychosocial methods with or without newly developed pharmacotherapies that improve relapse rates. Screening for problem drinking and alcoholism needs to become an integral part of the routine health screening questionnaire for adolescents and all adults, particularly women of child-bearing age, because of the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
ABSTRACT: Ten percent of the population abuses drugs or alcohol, and 20 percent of patients seen by family physicians have substance-abuse problems, excluding tobacco use. These patients can be identified by relying on regular screening or a high index of suspicion based on "red flags" that can be noted in various clinical situations. The modified CAGE questionnaire is an excellent screening instrument, but several alternatives are available. The best screening test is one that the physician will routinely use well. Laboratory indicators such as gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, mean corpuscular volume, and carbohydrate-deficient transferrin are nonspecific but can add to the evidence of alcohol abuse. If problem alcohol use is diagnosed, even brief physician advice can be helpful. If the problem has progressed to addiction, referral to an addiction specialist or treatment center is recommended. Special issues arise in dealing with substance abuse in adolescents, elderly patients, and patients with mental illness, but the family physician can play an important role in recognizing this common problem.
ABSTRACT: Detoxification from alcohol can be undertaken in ambulatory settings with patients who are alcohol-dependent and show signs of mild to moderate withdrawal when they are not drinking. An appropriate candidate for outpatient detoxification should have arrangements to start an alcohol treatment program and a responsible support person who can monitor progress, and should not have significant, acute, comorbid conditions or risk factors for severe withdrawal. Long-acting benzodiazepines, the preferred medications for alcohol detoxification, can be given on a fixed schedule or through "front-loading" or "symptom-triggered" regimens. Adjuvant sympatholytics can be used to treat hyperadrenergic symptoms that persist despite adequate sedation. Progress can be monitored with the use of a standard withdrawal-assessment scale and daily physician contact. Detoxification is not a stand-alone treatment but should serve as a bridge to a formal treatment program for alcohol dependence.
ABSTRACT: Medications for treating alcohol dependence primarily have been adjunctive interventions, and only three medications--disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate--are approved for this indication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Disulfiram, an aversive agent that has been used for more than 40 years, has significant adverse effects and compliance difficulties with no clear evidence that it increases abstinence rates, decreases relapse rates, or reduces cravings. In contrast, naltrexone, an anticraving agent, reduces relapse rates and cravings and increases abstinence rates. Acamprosate also reduces relapse rates and increases abstinence rates. Serotonergic and anticonvulsant agents promise to play more of a role in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication, the anticonvulsant topiramate and several serotonergic agents (e.g., fluoxetine, ondansetron) have been shown in recent studies to increase abstinence rates and decrease drinking.
ABSTRACT: Cirrhosis and chronic liver failure are leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States, with the majority of preventable cases attributed to excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Cirrhosis often is an indolent disease; most patients remain asymptomatic until the occurrence of decompensation, characterized by ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, hepatic encephalopathy, or variceal bleeding from portal hypertension. Physical examination of patients with cirrhosis may reveal a variety of findings that necessitate a hepatic- or gastrointestinal-based work-up to determine the etiology. Some patients already may have had laboratory or radiographic tests that incidentally uncovered signs of cirrhosis and its comorbidities. No serologic or radiographic test can accurately diagnose cirrhosis. A significant correlation has been demonstrated between persistently elevated liver function tests and biopsy-proven underlying hepatic disease; thus, a more targeted serologic work-up is indicated in patients whose liver function test results are persistently abnormal. Unnecessary medications and surgical procedures should be avoided in patients with cirrhosis. Referral for liver biopsy should be considered only after a thorough, non-invasive serologic and radiographic evaluation has failed to confirm a diagnosis of cirrhosis; the benefit of biopsy outweighs the risk; and it is postulated that biopsy will have a favorable impact on the treatment of chronic liver disease.
ABSTRACT: Smoking rates among persons with a history of alcohol abuse are triple that of the general public. Strong evidence indicates that the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease is higher in recovering alcoholics than in peers who smoke, but do not drink alcohol. Yet these persons often receive less than optimal tobacco counseling out of fear that attempts at smoking cessation will jeopardize their sobriety. Recent research, however, does not support this belief; rather, it suggests that smoking cessation may actually enhance alcohol abstinence. A model for more effective counseling of smokers in recovery is presented, including an algorithm for assessing stages of readiness to change, with activities tailored for each stage. Specific motivational counseling techniques may be useful in encouraging recovering alcoholics to progress to the point that they are ready to change their smoking behavior.
Health Screening in Older Women - Article
ABSTRACT: Health screening is an important aspect of health promotion and disease prevention in women over 65 years of age. Screening efforts should address conditions that cause significant morbidity and mortality in this age group. In addition to screening for cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and cancer, primary care physicians should identify risk factors unique to an aging population. These factors include hearing and vision loss, dysmobility or functional impairment, osteoporosis, cognitive and affective disorders, urinary incontinence and domestic violence. Although screening for many conditions cannot be proved to merit an "A" recommendation (indicating conclusive proof of benefit), special attention to these factors can decrease morbidity and improve quality of life in aging women.
ABSTRACT: Early identification of alcohol-related problems is important because these problems are prevalent, pose serious health risks to patients and their families, and are amenable to intervention. Physicians may be able to help patients change their drinking behaviors. The most effective tool for screening is a thorough history of the patient's drinking behavior, designed to identify patterns of alcohol-related difficulties with physical and mental health, family life, legal authorities and employment. Alcohol drinkers can be categorized as at-risk, problem or alcohol dependent, according to a protocol developed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The severity of the alcohol problem and the patient's readiness to change should determine the intervention selected by the family physician.
Alcoholism in the Elderly - Article
ABSTRACT: Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are common but underrecognized problems among older adults. One third of older alcoholic persons develop a problem with alcohol in later life, while the other two thirds grow older with the medical and psychosocial sequelae of early-onset alcoholism. The common definitions of alcohol abuse and dependence may not apply as readily to older persons who have retired or have few social contacts. Screening instruments can be used by family physicians to identify older patients who have problems related to alcohol. The effects of alcohol may be increased in elderly patients because of pharmacologic changes associated with aging. Interactions between alcohol and drugs, prescription and over-the-counter, may also be more serious in elderly persons. Physiologic changes related to aging can alter the presentation of medical complications of alcoholism. Management of alcohol withdrawal in elderly persons should be closely supervised by a health care professional. Alcohol treatment programs with an elder-specific focus may improve outcomes in some patients.
Pathologic Gambling - Article
ABSTRACT: Pathologic gambling and problem gambling affect approximately 5 to 15 million Americans and are common in young people. The community-minded family physician is in a good position to identify and assist patients who have gambling-related problems and thereby prevent or treat the resultant personal, family and social disruptions. Provider and community education about the depth and breadth of this condition is crucial for the identification and treatment of a growing problem. As with many psychologic conditions, identification of the disorder and treatment of the patient by the family physician comprise the primary treatment. Screening tools, treatment programs and self-help groups provide additional resources for the family physician. An illustrative case report demonstrates the importance of heightened awareness of and screening for this common condition.