I read with interest Dr. Vinson’s approach to alcohol abuse (Patient abusing alcohol or drugs? Help starts with a single question. J Fam Pract. 2013;62:63-69).
For the past 3 years I have often used my residency director’s approach to patients with substance abuse issues. It, too, involves a single question.
Once I’ve established a rapport with a patient who I suspect has a chronic alcohol problem, I simply ask: “How long have you been an alcoholic?” This establishes that we’re both aware of the patient’s alcoholism and that I now want to establish the duration of the abuse.
Israel Wojnowich, MD
St. Petersburg, Fla