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There is evidence that people with a history of sexual abuse may have an increased risk of developing alcohol and drug problems.
A self-completion sexual abuse questionnaire was designed and administered to a sample of attenders at three London alcohol services. Drinking behaviour was assessed using the Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire and the Alcohol Problems Questionnaire, and additional data were derived from case notes.
Fifty-four per cent of women and 24% of men identified themselves as victims of sexual abuse or assault. For the majority this had started before the age of 16 and involved non-relatives. Subjects with a history of sexual abuse were younger, reached drinking milestones earlier, were more likely to have a family history of alcohol misuse and had more alcohol-related problems than non-abused subjects. Sexual abuse, age and alcohol dependence predicted level of problems in a regression analysis.
The high rates of sexual abuse and its association with indications of increased morbidity suggest it is an important issue for the management of alcohol problems. More use could be made of self-completion questionnaires for the investigation of sexual abuse.