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The Effectiveness of Alcoholism Screening in an Ambulatory Care Setting:

Michael F. Fleming, Kristen L. Barry

Two hundred and eighty subjects in three ambulatory care clinics participated in this study designed to assess the psychometric properties of the SMAST using DSM-III criteria for alcoholism as the diagnostic standard. Eighty-two subjects (30%) who completed the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule met DSM-III criteria for alcohol abuse and/or dependence. The sensitivity of the SMAST, using the generally accepted weighted cut-off score of five or greater, was .56 and the specificity was .83. An unweighted cut-off score of two or greater produced a sensitivity of .72 and a specificity of .64. The results of this study suggest that, when the SMAST is used for screening in an ambulatory care clinic population, the optimum balance of sensitivity and specificity is achieved using an unweighted cut-off score of two or greater. In addition, the alcohol subscale of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule was easy to administer and should be considered for use as the diagnostic standard in clinical settings. (J. Stud. Alcohol 52: 33-36, 1991)