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Research Summary

Using the AUDIT in a College Sample

Hazardous drinking is common among college students, and its early detection and intervention can prevent serious consequences. This study assessed the validity of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), a 10-item screening tool for hazardous use, alcohol abuse, and dependence, among college students by comparing it with well-established reference standards (a validated calendar method for consumption and a diagnostic interview).

  • Among a sample of 302 college students (61% female), the AUDIT performed best as a screen for hazardous drinking amounts with a cut-off of 6 having a sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 60%. Hazardous amounts were defined as follows: for men, 4 or more times when >=5 drinks were consumed in 1 sitting, or >=57 drinks over the past 28 days; and for women, 4 or more times when >=4 drinks were consumed in 1 sitting, or >=29 drinks over the past 28 days.
  • The AUDIT performed less well in detecting current alcohol abuse or dependence (sensitivity 78%, specificity 57%) and lifetime abuse or dependence (sensitivity 71%, specificity 61%).

Comments:

Using well-established reference standards, the authors demonstrated that the AUDIT performs well as a screen for hazardous drinking amounts and less well for alcohol abuse or dependence in college students. Researchers should study ways to improve the sensitivity of the AUDIT in the college population, as they have in other groups. But for now, using a lower cut-off on the AUDIT than is standard for adults seems a reasonable approach to early identification of hazardous drinking in college students.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH

Reference:

Kokotailo PK, Egan J, Gangnon R, et al. Validity of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test in College Students. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004;28(6):914–920.
(view abstract)


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