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Validity of the CAGE Questionnaire in Screening for Alcohol Dependence in a Walk-in (Triage) Clinic

Barry Liskow, Jan Campbell, Elizabeth J. Nickel, Barbara J. Powell

Objective: This study assessed the value of the CAGE questionnaire in detecting alcohol dependence in the walk-in (triage) clinic of an acute care Veterans Affairs hospital. Method: Male veterans (N = 1,667) attending the walk-in clinic were asked several questions relating to whether they were current drinkers, were seeking alcohol treatment, and whether they had been hospitalized for treatment of alcoholism. Those who were current drinkers, were not seeking alcohol treatment and had not been hospitalized for alcohol treatment were given the CAGE questionnaire followed by a diagnostic interview utilizing DSM III-R criteria to determine the presence or absence of a lifetime diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Results: The diagnostic interview revealed a prevalence rate for alcoholism of 22% in this clinic population. The CAGE scale, when used with one or more yes responses indicating a positive response, achieved a sensitivity of 86% and specificity of 93% when using the diagnostic interview as the criterion standard. Conclusions: This study adds to the evidence that the CAGE questionnaire is an effective, efficient, easily used screening instrument for the detection of alcohol dependence in a clinical setting. (J. Stud. Alcohol 56: 277-281, 1995)