Why Should I Care?


This page is part of a larger SBIRT training activity provided by Clinical Tools, Inc. Our SBIRT activities provide clinical skills training for substance use problems to primary care providers, counselors, and students alike.
Please refer to the SBIRT Training homepage to sign-up and choose an activity!


If you do not have an account: This page is part of a larger SBIRTTraining activity provided by Clinical Tools, Inc. SBIRTTraining provides clinical skills training for healthcare providers in screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for substance use problems. Please refer to the SBIRTTraining.com homepage to sign-up and begin the activity!

Current accounts: If you see this message, the system has logged you out because of inactivity. To resume:

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Substance use problems are common

one in four patients

Approximately 20 to 25% of primary care patients are likely to have a current substance use problem or health problem related to tobacco, alcohol, or drug use (Mersy 2003; Madras et al. 2009). This means that as many as 1 in 4 of the patients you see today could benefit from your screening and brief intervention or referral to treatment.

  • Excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the US, with more than 2,200 Americans dying from overdose each year (USDHHS 2016).
  • Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.
  • Illegal drug use is alarmingly prevalent: Around 9.2% of the population aged 12 or older reports using illegal drugs within the past month. Additionally, over 47,000 die from drug overdoses each year (USDHHS 2016).
  • Approximately 8.5% of the population over age 12 meet DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse or dependence (substance use disorder in DSM-5).

(SAMHSA 2013)

Why should you make this change to your practice?
  1. YOU can initiate change in the above statistics and make a difference in the health of patients by asking as few as 1-2 simple questions, such as "in the past year, how many times have you misused prescription drugs?" (NIDA 2012). If the answers are positive, you can intervene briefly in 5 minutes or less and potentially improve their health. Unfortunately, few health care providers routinely provide screening for all substances and even fewer provide brief interventions (Roche & Freeman 2004; D'Amico et al. 2005). Those who do screen for current use often neglect to ask about past use and treatments.
  2. SBIRT is an evidence-based best practice that is strongly supported in the literature. For example, in one study, 6 months following SBIRT interventions:
    • Rates of illicit drug use were 67.7% lower (p<0.001).
    • Rates of heavy alcohol use were 38.6% lower (p<0.001).
    • Success was seen across clinic settings, gender, race/ethnic, and age subgroups.

    (Madras et al. 2009)

View ReferencesHide References
D'Amico EJ, Paddock SM, Burnam A, Kung FY. Identification of and guidance for problem drinking by general medical providers: results from a national survey. Medical Care. 2005; 43(3): 229-236. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15725979 Accessed on: 2013-10-24.
Madras BK, Compton WM, Avula D, et al. Screening, brief interventions, referral to treatment (SBIRT) for illicit drug and alcohol use at multiple healthcare sites. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009; 99: 280-295. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760304/ Accessed on: 2011-03-24.
Mersy DJ. Recognition of alcohol and substance abuse. American Family Physician. 2003; 67: 1529-1532. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0401/p1529.html Accessed on: 2013-10-24.
NIDA. The NIDA Quick Screen. Screening for Drug Use in General Medical Settings Resource Guide. 2012. Available at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/resource-guide-screening-drug-use-in-general-medical-settings/nida-quick-screen Accessed on: 2013-12-18.
Roche AM, Freeman T. Brief interventions: good in theory but weak in practice. Drug and Alcohol Review. 2004; 23(1): 11-18. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14965883 Accessed on: 2013-10-24.
SAMHSA. Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. NSDUH Series H-46, HHS . 2013. Available at: http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2012.pdf Accessed on: 2014-11-26.
USDHHS. Facing Addiction in America. The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Surgeon General Reports. 2016. Available at: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/ Accessed on: 2016-11-17.