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Alcohol Screening: NHS test questions that help identify people at risk


Assessing whether you or a loved one has an alcohol problem isn’t always easy.

It’s natural for a sense of denial to be present.

If it’s a loved one or friend you’re concerned about, they may have spent a lot of time insisting that you’re mistaken and their drinking is not abnormal.

If you’re wondering whether you have a problem yourself or others have indicated they believe you do, you may not want to accept it or truly not believe it to be the case.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is a trusted method of helping to identify people whose drinking has become problematic and improving alcohol awareness. It is used by medical professionals worldwide, including within the NHS, having been developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

You can take the test below. 

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)

Take the test for a guide of whether you are at risk of alcohol dependency:

Questions 0 1 2 3 4 Your score
How often do you have a drink containing alcohol? Never Monthly or less 2 to 4 times per month 2 to 3 times per week 4 times or more per week
How many units of alcohol do you drink on a typical day when you are drinking? (see diagram below for examples of what equates to one unit) 0 to 2 3 to 4 3 to 4 7 to 9 10 or more
How often have you had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of your drinking? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
Have you or somebody else been injured as a result of your drinking? No
Yes, but not in the last year
Yes, during the last year
Has a relative or friend, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested that you cut down? No
Yes, but not in the last year
Yes, during the last year

How many units are in my alcoholic drink?

The chart below gives an indication of the number of units found in certain common drinks:

Alcohol unit calculator

What your Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score means:

A score of:

  • 0 to 7 indicates low risk 
  • 8 to 15 indicates increasing risk 
  • 16 to 19 indicates higher risk
  • 20 or more indicates possible dependence

What to do with your AUDIT result

A low-risk score

A low-risk outcome on the AUDIT is of course reassuring. It’s worth reading up on the times when you should avoid alcohol altogether and to continue to be vigilant to ensure your drinking remains within healthy limits.

Drinking should be altogether avoided when operating a vehicle or machinery, during pregnancy, when using certain medications or if you have certain health conditions.

Guidance from the chief medical officers of the UK advises:

  • You should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week and should spread consumption of those units over at least three days. Drinking in one or two heavy sessions increases your risk of illness and/or injury.
  • The risk of developing illnesses such as cancers of the mouth, throat and breast increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis
  • If you wish to cut down the amount you’re drinking, a good way to achieve this is to have several alcohol-free days each week. 

An increasing or higher risk score

An AUDIT score of between 8 to 19, may indicate you are drinking at levels that could be harmful to your health and wellbeing.

Short term risks of excessive alcohol consumption may include: exposure to alcohol poisoning, lowered inhibitions that could lead to promiscuity you’re not comfortable with or unprotected sex. You are also at increased risk of certain illnesses, such as certain cancers and injuries, such as from a fall.

Longer term alcohol misuse can lead to a vast array of serious health issues such as pancreatitis; breast, mouth, bowel or liver cancer, heart or liver disease and stroke. 

Those drinking at increasing or higher risk of dependency are also more likely to suffer social consequences such as relationship issues or impacts on employment.

It would be wise to seek advice about your drinking and to consider cutting down. You may even decide to stop drinking altogether. If your alcohol consumption has become excessive or you’ve ever had withdrawal symptoms from alcohol it’s important to seek medical advice before doing so.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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An AUDIT score of 20 or more 

An AUDIT score of 20 or more indicates possible alcohol dependence and seeking advice and support is vital.

Reporting large daily consumption of alcohol puts you at higher risk of being dependent. Warning alarms are also particularly sounded for those who indicate they have been unable to stop drinking, failed to do what was expected of them due to their drinking or needed a drink in the morning to get themselves going – especially if this has happened regularly.

It is worth considering how long it has been since your last alcohol-free day and whether you have ever experienced withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. A long period since your last alcohol-free day and the presence of withdrawal symptoms are more signs of possible dependence.

Withdrawal symptoms may include sweating, hallucinations, anxiety or depression, insomnia and the shakes. This may lead people to have another drink to relieve the symptoms.

In these circumstances, it is important not to stop drinking suddenly without medical supervision and support. This is both because the emergence of withdrawal symptoms may make you more likely to relapse and because sudden unmanaged abstinence can lead to seizures or other potentially dangerous side effects.

It may be that you need to undertake a proper programme of detox in order to reduce your alcohol consumption or stop drinking altogether. This is much more likely to have a long term impact on your life if done in combination with other support such as rehab or counselling.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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What constitutes low-risk drinking?

The NHS advises that low-risk drinking means not usually drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over three or four days.

One unit of alcohol is around the amount an average adult can process in one hour, meaning in theory no alcohol would be left in the blood after that time – though this varies from person to person.

A unit equates to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. The number of units a drink contains depends on its ABV (alcohol by volume) strength and the size of the drink. 

A 250ml glass of wine will usually constitute around 3 units, as would a pint of strong beer, lager or cider. A more detailed list of examples can be found below.

What help is available following alcohol screening?

It’s important to remember that whatever your AUDIT result, if you feel concerned about your drinking or that of a loved one, reaching out for help and advice will cost you nothing but could prove life-changing.

You can contact Port of Call by phone, text or email, or speak to a health professional for further advice and guidance.

We are highly experienced in speaking to people in crisis both due to their own drinking and that of a loved one. Getting in touch is the first step toward getting the help you need. 

We’re happy to take the time to listen to your concerns and the specifics of your situation and to advise accordingly. Where appropriate, we can secure immediate private residential rehab places and help you through the process of finding the right one for you.

Remember, when you contact Port of Call, you’re likely to speak to an advisor who has personal experience of addiction. We understand the complexity of addiction.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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