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General practice 'preferred source' of help for alcohol misuse

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Nurses should introduce more generic alcohol screening after research has found that many drinkers would prefer to discuss their alcohol concerns in general practice.

The report, supported by charity Alcohol Concern, explored the attitudes and drinking habits of 1250 people across the UK. Participants were screened using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test and were then allocated into one of four groups ranging from the lower risk to possible alcohol dependence.

The survey results showed that the possibly alcohol dependent group were more likely to visit their GP practice with concerns over alcohol consumption and that the GP practice was the preferred source of help for those at most risk.

Mark Holmes, a nurse specialist in alcohol misuse, said that these results show that nurses should question more of their patients about their alcohol history. 'It is easy to identify a stereotypical drinker but this research shows that increasingly younger women and men are drinking to dependent levels and many are middle class. The initial role of nurses is to screen people more generically,' he said.

Mr Holmes also said that nurses should ask patients about their drinking habits if they present with conditions that has known links to high alcohol consumption such as blood pressure or hypertension.

Around half of the people who drank to dependent levels agreed with the statement 'I am a fairly normal drinker' leading to the conclusion that some drinkers may be unaware of how much they drink.These results show that screening in primary care needs to be improved and that nurses should not only be more open about asking patients about drinking habits but be mindful of their own, said Mr Holmes.




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