Have you ever...
felt you needed to Cut down your drinking?
No
felt Annoyed by people criticising your drinking?
No
felt Guilty about your drinking?
No
needed a drink first thing in the morning? (Eye-opener)
No
Your result is 0 points. You probably do not have an alcohol problem.

The alcohol CAGE questionnaire calculator is an easy-to-use tool that briefly assesses your alcohol use. It will tell you whether you should be worried about how much alcohol you consume. The CAGE test was created to look for some problem drinking signs and works as a wake-up call with a 'Keep an eye on your drinking!' message. This alcohol screening contains only four questions, each answered Yes or No, so you can fill it in by yourself while also allowing you to do a quick check-up with your patients if you're a medical professional. In this text, we also tell you what does CAGE questionnaire stand for and where does the name of the tool come from.

What does the CAGE questionnaire stand for?

Luckily, the CAGE questionnaire doesn't have to do anything with actual cages. Its name is an acronym, with each letter taken from the theme that each questions focuses on. These are:

  • C - cutting down
  • A - annoyance by criticism
  • G - guilt
  • E - eye-opener

Looking at those phrases in the context of alcohol, you'd admit they are quite alarming. That is why, in the CAGE questionnaire calculator, even one point is a red flag. The sensitivity of the tool (~90% depending on what problem we're discussing) comes from focusing on the behavioral aspects of alcohol misuse rather than straightforward questions such as 'how much do you drink?', as those types of questions are often met with denial and underestimation.

How to use this alcohol CAGE questionnaire calculator?

CAGE is a self-report alcohol screening tool, which means that you can make an assessment on your own, at home. The Oxford Society of Occupational Medicine recommends CAGE as the first test to take if you're concerned with your or your patient's drinking habits. The instructions are as follows:

  1. Take a look at the Alcohol CAGE Questionnaire.
  2. The CAGE test focuses on lifetime use. When answering the questions, think of your whole life and all the experiences with alcohol you've had.
  3. Answer all of the questions. The result is only visible to you, so be honest!
  4. You score 0 points for every 'No' answer and 1 point for every 'Yes' answer.
  5. Read your results when you have answered every question. Check out the result interpretation section for more information.

Alcohol CAGE questionnaire test - results interpretation

The questions in the CAGE test are built so that scoring even one point is a red flag. A score of 2 or more is clinically significant and could mean alcohol abuse. However, the alcohol CAGE questionnaire is not a diagnostic tool - rather, it should be used to indicate if a problem may exist.

Scoring >2 points means that further investigation is required. In this case, or if you are concerned with your alcohol intake habits, it is strongly advised that you seek professional medical help. The doctor can ask you to fill in some more screening test, such as the Audit test, or ask you to keep track of your drinking habits and start counting how many standard drinks you have per week (if you're in the UK you're probably find the alcohol units calculator more useful).

For the time being, try to cut down your alcohol intake. Set yourself drink limits, e.g., for the whole week or for an event you're going to, and don't exceed them! It is important that you do not stop drinking entirely, as the withdrawal effects can be fatal.

Problem drinking

The CAGE test is sensitive to problem drinking, but this is a broad term and can refer to hazardous drinking, binge drinking or alcohol dependence, amongst other things. Here are a few short definitions to give you the big picture.

  • Hazardous drinking - or risky drinking, is a level of drinking that puts you, or others, at risk of medical or social problems. Regularly exceeding your nations weekly alcohol intake limits (14 standard drinks for US men and 7 standard drinks for US women) makes you a risky drinker.

  • Binge drinking - The CDC defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern that brings a person's BAC (blood alcohol concentration) to 0.08 grams per cent or more. Some definitions also include 'an intention to become intoxicated'. It is one of the most common problem drinking patterns, often present in young adults, whose explanation is 'social drinking', or 'having fun'.

  • Alcohol dependence - a strong and hardly controllable desire to drink alcohol. A person affected by alcoholism will organise their everyday life around alcohol and fail any attempt to cut down drinking. They will continue to do so even when social or medical problems arise. Also, an alcoholic may experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting drinking - so it is always advised to seek professional medical consultation rather than suddenly stopping.

Other than CAGE alcohol screenings

The CAGE test, being short and designed for self-assessment, is a handy tool for anyone concerned with their drinking. But there are other alcohol screenings - some of them are considered as alternatives, while others are more complex and thorough.

  1. AUDIT Alcohol Screen - a WHO developed, 10-item test, sensitive to the early detection of alcohol misuse.
  2. Audit-C - a modified, shortened version of the regular AUDIT. Contains only three questions (and one determine your sex).
  3. CRAFFT (short for Car, Relax, Alone, Forget, Friends, Trouble) - a screening tool intended not only for alcohol abuse but also for other substance abuse, intended for adolescents.
  4. TWEAK - a tool originally designed to screen for problem drinking during pregnancy.
  5. MAST (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test) - a 25 question test that is a little bit inconvenient for use in primary care, so the CAGE test is often used instead. Has a special version for seniors: the MAST-G.

CAGE test - not only for alcohol

Although the most popular version of the CAGE is as an alcohol screening test, there is another version. The CAGE-AID is a conjoint questionnaire, adapted from the original CAGE test, where the questions are expanded to other drugs as well as alcohol. It covers illegal drugs and prescribed drugs that are misused.

Both the CAGE-AID and CAGE tests are most effective when used as part of a general medical history checkup.

Aleksandra Zając, MD

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CAGE Questionnaire Calculator - Alcohol Screening