Your doctor will ask you about your history of using alcohol and other drugs. He or she also will ask about any alcohol-related problems that you might have had at work, at home or with the law, including arrests or episodes of driving while intoxicated. Your doctor also may ask about any physical symptoms of alcoholism. Although these questions can be embarrassing to answer truthfully, your doctor should see alcoholism as an illness to treat, and will not respond to you as if you had a reason to be ashamed. And your doctor is in a better position to help you if you can be straightforward.
Your doctor will examine you, carefully checking for signs of poor nutrition and alcohol-related liver or nerve damage. He or she also will order blood tests to check for anemia, vitamin deficiencies and abnormal levels of liver chemicals. To help in the diagnosis of alcoholism, some doctors ask their patients to fill out a questionnaire such as the CAGE screening test (see above) or the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST).
For most alcoholics, the first alcohol-related life problem usually appears in the mid-20s to early 40s. After that, alcoholism remains a chronic, usually lifelong, illness.