Introduction: People misusing substances are overrepresented in health settings. Substance misuse can also be an underlying factor complicating medical diagnosis and management.
Aims: (i) To establish the prevalence of substance misuse in the general hospital inpatient population; and (ii) to examine the relationship between medical diagnosis and substance misuse problem as identified by screening tools.
Method: This study adopted a three-step screening approach including a prospective questionnaire survey, interview, and case note review. Subjects included all adult patients admitted to a London teaching hospital over a 1-week period.
Results: Seventy percent completed the questionnaire. Twenty-three percent was currently smoking, 14% was rated positive for alcohol misuse, and 12% positive for drug misuse. Only 65% of patients was screened for smoking, 54% for alcohol, and 9% for other substances.
Conclusions: People misusing one substance were more likely to be misusing others, hence the importance of screening all patients for all substances. Doctors were screening a small percentage of patients and they identified and intervened with only the severe ones.