One thing I will have to assess in the families I see is possible drug/alcohol abuse, because substance abuse is pervasive, problematic, and interpersonal. One of my texts, Procedures in Marriage and Family Therapy, recommends using “objective” measures such as the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (25 items), or the MacAndrew Alcoholism Scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (49 items), to give weight to the assessment. However, it also says that there is a correlation of .89 (that’s very high) between answering yes to two or more of the following four questions and alcohol abuse (p. 47):
1) Have you ever felt you ought to cut down on your drinking?
2)have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3) Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
4) Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye opener)?
Also, they list Heilman’s eight symptoms of alcoholism:
1) Thinking or talking a lot about drinking or getting high.
2) Increased tolerance. This is not a sign of health!
3) Drinking or taking a drug in a way that speeds up the onset of its effects.
4) Non-social use.
5) Drug/alcohol starts to seem like a medicine. Thoughts of drug/alcohol immediately upon a stressful event.
6) Blackouts. “How did I get home last night?”
7) Taking care to always have a supply of alcohol/drug.
8) Using more than planned.
Finally, Heilman says that anyone who answers yes to the question “Is your drinking ever different from what you would like it to be?” is very likely suffering from alcoholism (p. 48)
[First posted on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, April 13, 2010.]