Alcoholism is a disease, and a remarkably common one at that. Between one third and a half of all patients in general hospitals are alcoholic, and the costs of treating drunkenness are truly staggering, pardon the pun. Those that suffer from alcoholism typically have an uncontrollable compulsion to consume alcoholic beverages which generally results in problems to their health, personal relationships and social standing. 

CAGE system for detecting alcoholism

Studies have shown alarming figures:

  • A third of all trauma admissions (ie, car accidents) are drunk or intoxicated.
  • Thirty per cent of all male coronary care unit patients under the age of sixty suffer from alcoholism, while twelve per cent of their female counterparts are alcoholic.
  • Alcoholism present with stomach ulcers, liver disease, bleeding from the esophagus , pre-senile dementia or psychosis , or, especially in winter, exposure to the cold.
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For years, there has been a sense of collective hopelessness about the condition, a sort of feeling that the alcoholic is beyond help and reason, and is bent on self destruction. New evidence shows that the opposite is true, that, like other diseases, early detection of alcoholism is the best protection. The ideal person to do the initial screening is the family doctor, but alas, the test has not been widely enough publicized.

In an attempt to give the examination a broader hearing, I will list the four easy questions we could all be asking of anyone who drinks and that we suspect suffers from alcoholism. First, have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking? Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking or have you ever felt bad or guilty about drinking? Have you ever taken a drink first thing in the morning as an eye opener to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

The acronym for the test is the CAGE test:

  • Cut down drinking: Do you feel the need to reduce the amount you drink?
  • A for annoyed: Do you feel annoyed by complaints about your drinking?
  • G for guilty: Do you ever feel guilty that you drink?
  • E for eye-opener: Do you ever drink a morning “eye-opener” to relieve the shakes?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, or worse yet, to all of them, you are falling into the alcoholic trap and alcoholism may be beginning to affect your life and your loved ones.

Here’s an action tip:
Alcoholism is not a hopeless disease, and it can be treated. This is especially true in its most earliest stages. Take the cage test yourself, and see how you do. It’s a sobering thought.

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