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The Skinner Trauma History (Self Test). Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

Updated on September 26, 2011

Those of us who have made a habit of drinking to excess often sport a few war wounds. We get drunk and we fall down, or fall off things, or run into things – and those of us who drink/drank as alcoholics tend to get sort of hurt with some frequency.

Amazingly, we mostly wake up the next morning after yet another fall or fight or what have you, little the worse for wear, but every once and a while we get hurt for real. Drunks are far more likely to have a broken bone, a head injury, or have gotten in some sort of brawl. So likely in fact, that clinicians can determine how likely it is that you have a drinking problem, just by looking at your history of trauma.

It's called the Skinner Trauma History, and it's a 5 question screening test used medically to see if someone might have an alcohol problem. It’s often used when direct questions about substance use behaviors aren't appropriate or useful.

A score of 2 or more yes answers indicates that the person has a "high likelihood" of having a history of excessive drinking or problem drinking. It does not indicate whether a person has a drinking problem at the time the questionnaire is given.

The Skinner Trauma History

Since you were 18, have you:

  1. Had any fractured or dislocated bones?
  2. Been in a traffic accident?
  3. Had a head injury?
  4. Been hurt in a fight, or been assaulted?
  5. Been hurt after drinking?

A score of 2 or more yes answers indicates a history of alcohol abuse or heavy drinking, but does not, obviously, prove this.

If you are wondering about your own drinking, taking this test may help you to see what effects alcohol may be having on your health. If you are wondering about the drinking habits of a loved one, this test may also help you to make a preliminary diagnosis of the problem.


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    • recovering addict profile imageAUTHOR

      recovering addict 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for all the comments and feeback everyone!

      The Skinner Test is used most often, I think, as a way to evaluate the liklihood of a drinking problem when due to a person's deffensiveness (or other reason why they may be unreliable) direct questions about drinking habits are not appropriate.

      Although it does not guarantee a history of alcohol abuse, if medical staff are already suspicious of a history of substance abuse and the Skinner Test confirms their suspicions, they may continue with more invasive medical tests to see what stories the body (liver etc.) may tell.

    • Proud Mom profile image

      Proud Mom 

      9 years ago from USA

      God didn't give me the talent to be in the medical field. It seems sometimes that particular occupation would be very similar to a detective, especially the way Mighty Mom answered my question. I tend to look at medical science as a black and white thing--here I am in the office with symptoms x, y and z, and here is the answer to that equation and the solution to that problem. This test puts an interesting light on this field for me.

      Again, Recovering Addict, GREAT hub!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      It's not my hub and hopefully Recovering Addict will have more answers, but I am guessing that this is just one diagnostic tool that medical professionals use. Just one of many -- the very least reliable one being the drinker's "self reporting" because if one is a problem drinker the last thing one wants to admit is how much is really being consumed. But if a doctor sees a pattern of broken bones, car accidents, maybe some liver enlargement, broken veins on the skin, covered in black and blues -- you add it all up and it's pretty clear alcohol abuse is going on.

    • Proud Mom profile image

      Proud Mom 

      9 years ago from USA

      I have the same question as Mighty Mom. What happens when two or more are answered, "yes?" surely, they could not diagnose immediately a drinking problem, could they? I have been in a traffic accident and had a head injury, and neither were done while drinking.

      This is very interesting. Great hub!

    • St.James profile image


      9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

      Just as I thought...I passed with flying colors. I could answer "yes" to all of them. By a Higher Power, I have not been able to answer "yes" to all in a recent tense. For that I'm grateful

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      One time I was at a dressy business dinner in my little black dress. I tripped over a stantion but managed to not break my wine glass!

      I had never had a broken bone until the age of 38. I was riding my bike to a "day of beauty" at the hairdressers -- stone cold sober -- and misjudged the angle trying to cross the transit train tracks on the street. My front wheel got caught, I went down on my elbow and knew immediately from the angle it was at that something was dreadfully wrong. Yep, it was broken. Well, I'd only had my cast on for a day when I decided I could go rafting -- and did, tanked up on pain pills and I'm sure beer and pot, too. It's amazing how stupid I was. And yeah, even though technically my accident happened when I was sober, it was clearly a sign for me to change my drinking habits and my life!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Well thankfully I only fall 'almost' into one category, but I did fall off a chair at a friends 72nd Birthday party by our fishing lake. Luckily I landed on grass, but I did land hard on the end of my right elbow. This was Aug 2nd, and in spite of having the elbow x-rayed twice now, with no sign of damage, it has never been right since. It clicks, aches and is not as flexible as it used to be. It could have been alot worse, but luckily I landed on grass and not a hard surface.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Man... I don't have a drinking problem, but a couple years ago on my birthday I went out drinking and invited everyone I know to come out with me... one person showed up, (dude, you know who you are, & thanks!,) ... well, needless to say, I got SLOPPY. I ended up going home with my buddy, linked arm in arm, (we were holding eachother up,) and I tripped and fell hard. That night he took me home and ended up pulling craploads of gravel out of my knee, cleaning it out and bandaging it. After that experience I've learned not to drink by myself when I'm bummed out. (Or by myself on special occasions.) Thanks for publishing this. Sometimes we just can't avoid injuries after we've been drinking, your balance and co-ordination is just wanky. But if it seems to be happening a lot, or if you're getting behind the wheel of a car, then you know there is a problem!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      This is really interesting. I had never heard of this Skinner test. One could find exceptions to each of the questions -- for example, if you were an avid sports fan you could easily break a bone. But in general, this makes sense to me. The bigger question, tho, is when a medical professional gets a "yes" answer, what then? They can't diagnose a patient on the spot with substance abuse so the person goes on their merry way until the next fight/assault/broken bone. Sigh. I think that's the part of addiction that is most frustrating to me. The person has to "wake up" to their problem on their own in order for treatment or recovery to work for them.


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