College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Comparison of the Quick Drinking Screen and the Alcohol Timeline Followback with Outpatient Alcohol Abusers

Document Type


Publication Date



Timeline Followback, Alcohol Abusers, Quick Drinking Screen, Drinking Assessment

Publication Title

Substance Use and Misuse








Objective: A recent study comparing the Quick Drinking Screen (QDS) with the Timeline Followback (TLFB) found that in a nonclinical population of problem drinkers both measures produced reliable summary measures of drinking. The current study was designed to replicate these findings with a clinical population of alcohol abusers. The data were collected over three years (2004-2006).

Method: Participants were 124 alcohol abusers who voluntarily enrolled for outpatient treatment. Over half (52.4%) were female with an average age of almost 40 years. About a third were married, had completed university, and a quarter were unemployed and nonwhite. Participants reported having a drinking problem for an average of 8.3 years, and reported drinking on about 5 days per week, averaging six drinks per drinking day. On two different occasions, they responded to two different sets of questions about their alcohol use. The instruments were: (a) the Quick Drinking Screen (QDS), a summary drinking measure, administered by telephone prior to the assessment; and (2) the TLFB self-administered by computer at the assessment.

Results: As in a previous study, this study found that the QDS and the TLFB, two very different drinking measures, collected similar aggregate drinking data for four drinking variables in a clinical sample of alcohol abusers.

Conclusions: When it is not necessary or not possible to gather detailed drinking data, the QDS produces reliable brief summary measures of drinking for problem drinkers. Generalization to nonclinical samples awaits further research.