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20 Questions for Alcoholics! The Johns Hopkins Questions (Introduction)

by | Johns Hopkins 20 Questions | 13 comments

(0.20) Introduction
(0.33) Dr Seliger and the questions
(1.14) Self-testing
(1.36) The test

Are You an Alcoholic?

If you are in doubt about whether you have a drinking problem, one of the best places to start is by taking “The Johns Hopkins 20 Questions: Are You an Alcoholic?” These 20 questions for alcoholics are also known as the 20 questions of AA.

These questions are not intended to be used as part of a professional medical evaluation, but as a self-testing means to determine how much alcohol is influencing and affecting your life…

I’ve taken the test and can answer yes to most of them.

Dr Robert Victor Seliger

Dr Robert Victor Seliger

Over the next few weeks, I’ll do an article and video on each of these questions, but for now I just wanted introduce them.

They were originally conceived by, and need to be attributed to, Dr Robert Victor Seliger while he was a Department of Psychiatry faculty member at the Johns
Hopkins Hospital in the 1930’s.

Email From Johns Hopkins

Here is a copy of an email from a local AA intergroup member, who in turn is providing a snippet of an e-mail she received from John’s Hopkins Hospital stating their official position.


++++Message 754. . . . . . . . . . . . Johns Hopkins 20 Questions answered
From: kentedavis@aol.com . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/4/2003 6:37:00 AM


Juliet from our local Intergroup has come up with some interesting facts
about the 20 questions. I forward the following


Below is a snippet from an e-mail I received from a contact from Johns
Hopkins’ media relations department:

This is from a faculty member in our Psychiatry dept.

“The Johns Hopkins Twenty Questions: Are You An Alcoholic? was developed in
the 1930s by Dr. Robert Seliger, who at that time was a faculty member in
the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was intended
for use as a self-assessment questionnaire to determine the extent of one’s
alcohol use. It was not intended to be used by professionals as a screening
tool to help them formulate a diagnosis of alcoholism in their patients.
We do not use this questionnaire at any of the Johns Hopkins substance abuse
treatment programs. To the best of my knowledge, there have never been any
reliable or validated studies conducted using the Hopkins Twenty Questions.
I advise you to consider using other instruments such as the Michigan
Alcoholism Screening Test or the CAGE ” both of which have proven
reliability and validity as reported in the scientific literature.”

So, the questions should be attributed to Dr.Robert Seliger of Johns Hopkins
(in the 1930s), not to Johns Hopkins itself as they no longer advocate their
use. I note as well that the e-mail I sent to you all earlier from the
Literature Desk at GSO stated that the hospital had requested that GSO not
attribute those questions to their institution in the pamphlet “Memo to an
Inmate Who May Be an Alcoholic.”

If you know anyone who would like permission to reprint this piece, I have a
contact at Johns Hopkins to whom I can refer them. I have been in contact
with the faculty member who knew the history of this document and who
recommended that we not use it. She was very adamant about it–in a second
e-mail to me, she said that she’d grant permission to any AA group who
wanted to use it, but that she really recommended that we don’t.

I hope this information is helpful.

Happy Christmas!


20 Questions for Alcoholics!

Here are the 20 questions from the Johns Hopkins Are You an Alcoholic test.

1    Have you lost time from your work because of your drinking?
2    Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3    Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4    Is drinking affecting your reputation?
5    Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
6    Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
7    Do you turn to lower companions or environment when drinking?
8    Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
9    Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10    Do you want a drink the next morning?
11    Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
12    Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
13    Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14    Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15    Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
16    Do you drink alone?
17    Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
18    Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19    Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
20    Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?


The conclusions that came with the test

If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.

You can also download a PDF copy of the questions here: Are You an Alcoholic – The Johns Hopkins 20 Questions (PDF)

**** You should apply these questions over a fixed period of time, perhaps a year.
**** You need to be completely honest with yourself.
**** No-one else is going to see the results of your test.
**** I would suggest that if you answer ‘yes’ to any three of the questions that you at least have a quick chat with your doctor!


Please leave a comment below if you have any opinion or questions.

Onwards and Upwards!


Downnload the video transcsript here: Video Transcript 20 questions for alcoholics! The Johns Hopkins Questions (Introduction)


  1. Sheila

    I know I am an alcoholic and your test proves it. But I don’t know how to be sober. I feel like I need to dumb myself down to deal with the people I work with in an environment I hate. And I can’t change it because my family is continuously struggling financially. My job keeps us in a house and with food on the table. I can’t give that up. So I can’t give up drinking. It’s my only escape from all that I hate about my life.

  2. Don Hunsucker

    The actor, George Kennedy, once narrated an educational video that was used in the substance abuse field based on the 20 questions. It is an old video that was probably made in the early 70’s. Does anyone know how to obtain a copy of this?

  3. John N

    I am 37 years sober in AA which I attend almost daily. My primary purpose is to stay sober and help the alcoholic who still suffers.

  4. Slav

    While I agree that these are decent screening questions, answering ‘yes’ to 3 of these DEFINITELY does not equate to a diagnosis of alcoholism. Alcoholism is a nuanced diagnosis, and at times the definition may be different for different people. Insinuating that a positive response to 3 of these questions is an automatic diagnosis of alcoholism is irresponsible.

    • Greg

      What if I answered 17 questions yes.. For instance there is no special time like 5pm I stArt when I wake up. It helped me relax

  5. John

    I also agree with another commentator that answering three questions “yes” does not definitely make you an alcoholic. In fact, I have no doubt that many sober people would answer three “yes.” For instance, the following questions are likely to get a false positive: 5, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19.

    #5 Remorse after drinking: I’m not sure I know a single person that does not have an action or set of actions that they regretted after a night of drinking.

    #12 Negative effect on sleeping: This is the most egregious question of the lot. Throw this one out. It has been scientifically proven that alcohol negatively affects sleep. It can take as little as one glass/shot of something to negatively affect sleep. With this knowledge in mind, every single person who has every had a sip of alcohol has had their sleep negatively affected.

    #13 Decreased efficiency since drinking: It’s called a hangover people.

    I’m not going to bother dissecting the remaining questions I take issue with but suffice to say these questions offer guidance but the maxim of “if you answer “yes” to one, two or three questions, here is the implication” is quite frankly to reductionist to do any good.

    If anyone reads these questions and answers “yes” to three or more then look at the circumstances from a holistic standpoint. Questions that look at your financial and emotional well-being are far more indicative of your health and possible addiction.

  6. Kathy

    My husband died of alcoholism 31 years ago at the age of 42. We were separated and divorced 6 years before his death. Two weeks before he died he called and told me he loved me and never anyone else. Sadly I already knew that and to this day know that was the absolute truth. Those 20 questions penned so many years ago still ring true for him. Love was not strong enough to conquer it. My question to my loving God, just one. Why!? I still know God loves us both. I think in heaven it will all be clear and we won’t hurt anymore. Right now it still brings tears.

  7. Noel Young

    Kevin to infer that saying yes to any of the 3 questions posed saying you are an are an alcoholic is clearly saying that by far the majority of the worlds adult population of which would all have had an occasional social drink or so over their adult years completely ruins your credibility.

    The whole by far one definng fact of whether one is an alcoholic Is the volume of alcohol one drinks over a certain time span.

    Your questionnaire does not get close to asking this vital and dominating point sot the door with your credibility.

    By the way I answered YES your es questions and yes I would at 73 years after being a drinker since 18, want to give it up as been I’ll from prostate cancer in 2016 and a TIA many years before that.

    If you want to be taken seriously you must be CREDIBLE as the majority of the wolds population going by your asessment might be alcoholics but have sufficient intelligence to doubt your opinions

    • Kevin O'Hara

      These are not my questions. They are from the Johns Hopkins institute.

  8. Bill

    Perhaps it could be condensed to one question:
    “Do you really want to give up alcohol but can’t, after many attempts.”

  9. den

    I took the test when I was 18. A friend of mine found an AA meeting pamphlet on a bar in NYC at 4:00 AM closing time as we bought a case of beer to go back to the dorm. I answered yes to at least 13 and he a like amount. We immediately rejected the conclusions (denial) by comparing ourselves to the street alcoholics
    in the neighborhood. I got sober in AA at 43 and was a financial executive (“functioning” alcoholic). Alcoholism is a fatal, progressive (always getting worse) disease for which there is no cure. It can only be arrested one day at a time. I have been continuously sober for almost 30 years. The AA program and the fellowship of AA saved my life. There are millions of people living sober lives today. Tragically there are tens of millions suffering and dying of alcoholism today. I found out that drinking was a symptom of a deeper problem. I had a problem with living life and a thinking problem. I have a rich and rewarding life today and
    am at peace. The desire to stop drinking (a gift) and the grace of a loving God drove me to AA. The mental obsession and physical compulsion to drink was lifted from me within a short time once I started to take suggestions (there are no “rules”/alcoholics are too defiant for rules). I thought for years “I will drink today and stop tomorrow”. It never occurred to me to “stop for today and drink tomorrow”. Tomorrow never really comes since you are living one day at a time. Kind of simple but it works.

  10. Karen Karen (Please don't print my last name!)

    Instead of a comment, I have a question. My ex-husband has been drinking heavily for more than 20 years. His whole personality has changed. I am wondering – if he stops drinking at this point is it possible for him to return to the nice person that he was, or will he most likely continue to be hateful and aggressive? We have adult children and young grandchildren.

  11. KW Copper

    I took this test at age 24 and found that I had four ‘yes’ answers. I knew at that moment exactly what I needed to do. That was to flip my pencil over and use the eraser to change two of the answers! I continued drinking until I got sober at age 28. I retook the test about ten years later – more had been revealed to me. I know today that the test asks you to be as honest as you can. For me, that wasn’t very honest. I really believed that many of those things did not apply to me. Today, I have 18-19 yes answers, depending upon the day. I am overqualified to be an alcoholic. This test, though considered by many to be too vague, or outdated, did give me an insight into what was a possibility, and then later determined to be a certainty. I’m sober 38 years now and do not miss drinking at all. It’s not my place to tell anyone that they’re alcoholic. I only know that I am one and will help anyone who asks to be shown the way out out of it.


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