Interview Questions

Guidelines for interviewing adolescents about alcohol have been reviewed (Speraw and Rogers, 1998). An atmosphere of trust and privacy must be conveyed (parents should be excluded). The questioning should be gradually moved from nonthreatening areas about general lifestyle to more specific questions about medications to questions about alcohol use. Standard interview questions for alcohol abuse include quantity of consumption; frequency of consumption; preference of alcoholic beverages; age at onset of drinking; attempts to cut down or quit; time of most recent drink; adverse sequelae related to drinking (or stopping drinking); and pattern of drinking (continuous, daily drinking, binge pattern). Quantity questions can classify binge drinking as never, less than one, one to three, three to five, and more than five per month. Vague or evasive answers, as well as rationalizations, should be "red flags." Patients can also be asked how much alcohol they purchase and how often. It is important to elicit specific, concrete information and not become derailed by certain responses.

A family history of alcohol problems must be detailed because it is a major predictive variable. When a clinician receives the answer that the patient does not drink at all, the line of questioning should still be pursued to determine whether cessation was problem based. Once it has been established that the person has a history of binge drinking or continuous daily drinking, follow-up questions are in order. These questions may include role impairment, family concerns, amnesia, self-concern, and hangovers to determine the patient's sentiments about alcohol consumption.

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