Researchers and clinicians use the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI) to assess adolescent drinking-related problems for years. A new study of RAPI confirmed that it is an effective screening assessment, and it may also be able to predict alcohol diagnoses up to seven years later.
Richard J. Rose, Professor Emeritus in psychology and brain science at Indiana University, Bloomington, said that RAPI is a self-report questionnaire on the frequency with which an adolescent has experienced 23 consequences of drinking alcohol, such as getting in a fight, in the previous 18 months. He added that this is the first study in which adolescent RAPI scores were used to predict later diagnoses of alcoholism. It is also the first study to look at the RAPI scores of pairs of twin brothers and sisters and whether their alcohol outcomes differ later in life.
Matt McGue, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Minnesota, said that this study looks at whether drinking in adolescence can predict alcohol dependence in adulthood.
Rose and colleagues surveyed 597 Finnish twins at age 18 using the RAPI scale, and interviewed them again at age 25 using the Semi-Structured Assessment of the Genetics of Alcoholism, looking at the presence of alcohol abuse or dependence. Rose said that the more drinking-related problems experienced by an individual at age 18, the greater the likelihood that he or she would be diagnosed with alcoholism seven years later at age 25. The association was stronger in females than males, and was also found among twins who differed in their RAPI scores at age 18.
McGue said that RAPI is predictive of later risk of alcohol dependence, which means that RAPI can be used to identify adolescents who are at high risk for developing alcohol dependence. He added that in this study, the authors were able to confirm the association of adolescent drinking with alcohol dependence among pairs of twins.
Rose said the study has important implications for clinicians, and that the first step is to identify those with an elevated risk by screening for drinking-related problems in adolescence. The RAPI scale is an efficient way to screen for these problems, and it can also predict later alcohol dependency problems.
Source: Science Daily, Why Problem Drinking During Adolescence Is Never a ‘Phase’, February 15, 2011