Results of a statewide survey of adolescent substance use screening rates and practices in primary care

Subst Abus. 2012;33(4):321-6. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2011.645950.


Professional guidelines recommend annual screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) as part of health maintenance for all adolescents, but reported screening rates have been low and no report has documented the techniques being used. The objective of this study was to describe the results of a statewide questionnaire regarding adolescent substance use screening rates and techniques used by primary care physicians practicing in Massachusetts. A questionnaire was mailed to every licensed physician registered as practicing pediatrics (N = 2176), family medicine (N = 1335), or both (N = 8) in the Massachusetts Board of Medicine database. After eliminating physicians who did not provide care for adolescents, the survey response rate was 28% and the final analyzable sample consisted of 743 surveys. Less than half of respondents reported using a validated adolescent screening tool. The majority of respondents used ineffective screening practices for adolescent substance use. Further physician training is recommended to encourage the use of developmentally appropriate screening tools and interventions for adolescents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Substance Abuse Detection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires