South African Family Practice

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Alcohol misuse in patients attending a defence force general medical clinic.

D Bekker, DP Van Velden


Aim: To determine the prevalence of alcohol misuse in adult patients attending a defence force general practice clinic.

Design: Descriptive cross-sectional survey.

Methods: The setting is a military sickbay situated in the Cape Town metropolitan area, South Africa. Participants included all adult patients (>=18 years) attending the clinic during a three week period midyear. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) questionnaire was completed by patients. Two direct alcohol consumption questions were added determining the total drinks per week as well as the maximum number of drinks per occasion.

Results: Of the 658 patients approached, 40 (6%) declined to fill in the questionnaire. 42% of the 618 patients surveyed were female and 58% were male with an average age of 41 years. The group consisted of 44% current defence force members, 25% retired defence force members, 22% medical dependents and 7% civilians. The overall rate of alcohol misuse according to the AUDIT-questionnaire was 13,27%. Among male patients, 20,6% scored as misusers of alcohol, compared with 2,7% among females. A much higher level of misuse was also found under younger age groups. 38,1% of male apprentices at the technical college and 40,0% of male current defence force members staying on the base scored 8 or more on the AUDIT. In the group scoring less than 8 on the AUDIT-questionnaire a further 9 patients reported drinking on average more than 14 drinks per week for males and more than 9 drinks per week for females. In this group (AUDIT-score <8) 76 patients reported maximum number of drinks per occasion of more than 4 for men and more than 3 for women. If these two questions are included the overall rate of alcohol misuse found was 26,05%.

Conclusion: The high rate of alcohol misuse found in this group of patients is need for concern. The overall rate of alcohol misuse was not found to be higher than what was found in other studies in South Africa as well as other countries. This study supports the implementation of screening and intervention strategies in general medical clinics in the defence force. SA Fam Pract 2003;45(2):10-15

Keywords: alcohol misuse; Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT); general medical practice; defence force; prevalence

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