Original Report| Volume 32, ISSUE 3, P325-329, June 2019

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Screening for At-Risk Alcohol and Drug Use in the Antenatal Period: How Do Young Women Compare with Older Adult Women?

Published:December 22, 2018DOI:


      Study Objective

      In the present study we compared results of standardized screening tools for problem alcohol and other drug use in younger (ages 18-24 years) and older (ages 25 and older) women attending the same clinic. We separately investigated pregnant and nonpregnant women.

      Design, Setting, Participants, Interventions, and Main Outcome Measures

      This was a cross-sectional study of women attending an urban, university-affiliated obstetrics and gynecology clinic. Women were recruited while awaiting appointments with their providers. In total, 3317 provided consent and completed a brief anonymous survey with standardized questions about alcohol and other drug problems. Measures included the T-ACE (acronym for Tolerance, Annoyed when others express concern, Cut down on drinking, Eye-opener) for alcohol and CAGE for other drugs (CAGE is a mnemonic for the following items: (1) Have you ever felt you should cut down on your use of other drugs? (2) Have people annoyed you by criticizing your use of other drugs? (3) Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your use of other drugs? and (4) Have you ever used drugs first thing in the morning to steady your nerves, avoid withdrawal, or get rid of a hangover [eye opener]?). Individual item responses and screener summary scores were compared separately for pregnant and nonpregnant younger (ages 18-24 years) and older adult (25 years of age or older) women using χ2 for categorical and t tests for continuous variables.


      For pregnant women, 386/1460 (26%) of older women screened at-risk for problem drinking compared to 250/1203 (21%) of younger women (P = .001). For other drugs, however, 192/1203 (16%) of younger pregnant women screened at risk compared to 186/1461 (13%) of older adult pregnant women (P = .02). For nonpregnant women, screen positive rates for at-risk drug use were nearly 2 times higher among older compared with younger women, with 48/321 (15%) of older women screening at risk compared to 28/332 (8%) of younger women (P < .01).


      The present findings affirm the need for routine screening for alcohol and drug problems in women of all ages, regardless of pregnancy status.

      Key Words

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