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Systematic review of alcohol screening tools for use in the emergency department
  1. Lucy A Jones1,2
  1. 1Emergency Department, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Medical Care Research Unit, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lucy A Jones, Emergency Department, Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, Sheffield S5 7AU, UK; indiana_2000{at}


To ascertain which alcohol screening tool is most accurate in identifying alcohol misuse in patients in the emergency department a systematic review of diagnostic cohort studies of appropriate alcohol screening tools was performed. A thorough search of medical databases and relevant peer journals was conducted. Citation and author tracking was also utilised due to an initial paucity of relevant literature. Seven relevant papers were identified from this search, which allowed a review of the quality of the following alcohol screening tools: the fast alcohol screening tool (FAST), the Paddington alcohol test (PAT), the rapid alcohol problem screen (RAPS-4) and the TWEAK (where TWEAK is an acronym of the first letter of the key words in the questions of this screening tool: tolerance, worried, eye-opener, amnesia, K (cut-down)). The most sensitive screening tool within this review appears to be the FAST (93–94%), which has a specificity of 86–88% with a positive predicted value of 86–87%. Although the FAST appears to be the best for accurately identifying alcohol misuse within emergency department patients, it was assessed as a universal screening tool, and it may not be feasible (time or cost) to screen all who present to this service. In contrast, the PAT has been developed to be used on a select population within the emergency department and has already been shown to be cost-effective.

  • Alcohol abuse
  • alcohol screening tool
  • assessment
  • mental health

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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