Optimizing the Use of the AUDIT for Alcohol Screening in College Students

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The screening and brief intervention modality of treatment for at-risk college drinking is becoming increasingly popular. A key to effective implementation is use of validated screening tools. Although the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) has been validated in adult samples and is often used with college students, research has not yet established optimal cutoff scores to screen for at-risk drinking. Four hundred and one current drinkers completed computerized assessments of demographics, family history of alcohol use disorders, alcohol use history, alcohol-related problems, and general health. Of the 401 drinkers, 207 met criteria for at-risk drinking. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis revealed that the area under the ROC (AUROC) of the AUDIT was .86 (95% CI [.83, .90]). The first 3 consumption items of the AUDIT (AUDIT-C; AUROC = .89, 95% CI [.86, .92]) performed significantly better than the AUDIT in the detection of at-risk drinking in the whole sample, and specifically for females. Gender differences emerged in the optimal cutoff scores for the AUDIT-C. A total score of 7 should be used for males, and a score of 5 should be used for females. These empirical guidelines may enhance identification of at-risk drinkers in college settings.

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