Screening instruments for detecting illicit drug use/abuse that could be useful in general hospital wards: a systematic review

Addict Behav. 2011 Dec;36(12):1111-9. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.07.007. Epub 2011 Jul 23.


Aim: To identify and describe screening instruments for detecting illicit drug use/abuse that are appropriate for use in general hospital wards and review evidence for reliability, validity, feasibility and acceptability.

Methods: Instruments were identified from a number of screening instrument databases/libraries and Google Scholar. They were independently assessed for eligibility by two reviewers. MEDLINE, EMBASE, PSYCINFO, and Cochrane Library were searched for articles published up to February 2010. Two reviewers independently assessed the identified articles for eligibility and extracted data from the eligible studies.

Results: 13 instruments, ASSIST, CAGE-AID, DAST, DHQ/PDHQ, DUDIT, DUS, NMASSIST, SIP-AD, SDS, SMAST-AID, SSI-SA, TICS and UNCOPE were included in the review. They had 2 to 28 items and took less than 10 min to administer and score. Evidence on validity, reliability, acceptability and feasibility of instruments in adult patients not known to have a substance abuse problem was scarce. Of the 21 studies included in the review, only one included participants from general hospital wards. Reported sensitivity, specificity and predictive values varied widely both between studies of the same instrument and also between different instruments. No study was identified comparing two or more of the included instruments.

Conclusion: The review identified and described 13 instruments that could be useful in general hospital wards. There is however lack of evaluation of illicit drug use screening instruments in general hospital wards. Currently clinicians or researchers searching for a simple, reliable, general screening instrument for current drug use to guide practice or research in general hospital wards do not have enough comparative evidence to choose between the available measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Young Adult