Drug and Substance Use Disorders

Diagnosis & Tests

If a healthcare professional thinks that a person is misusing alcohol or medications, they will first confirm this by:

  • Asking questions about symptoms, family history, and if they use substances and how much
  • Reviewing prescriptions for commonly misused drugs or medicines
  • Doing a physical exam
  • Ordering blood and urine tests

CAGE Questionnaire

The CAGE questionnaire is often used by healthcare providers to find out whether a person has a drinking problem. The four questions are:

  • Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt Annoyed by criticism about your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty or bad about drinking?
  • Have you ever felt the need for a drink in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? (Eye opener)

Answering yes” to any of these questions may mean that the person has a problem with alcohol.

Report that you are having a problem with alcohol or drugs so you can get help. 

Healthcare professionals often don’t ask about alcohol or drug use. And many older people don’t tell their healthcare provider that they cannot control their use of substances.

Surgery and Hospitalization

Talk with your healthcare provider about alcohol use when you are going to have surgery.

  • Alcohol misuse increases the risk of delirium after surgery.
  • Dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms can happen during an unexpected hospital stay. A person who is drinking regularly doesn’t have access to alcohol in the hospital.


Last Updated May 2023

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