Screening instruments for substance use and brief interventions targeting adolescents in primary care: a literature review

Addict Behav. 2013 May;38(5):2146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.01.015. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Background: A review of the literature was conducted to examine substance use screening instruments commonly used with adolescents in medical settings, their comparative usefulness, and SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment).

Methods: We screened two databases (Ovid MEDLINE and PsycINFO) targeting journal articles dealing with screening for alcohol and drug use in adolescence as well as adolescent SBIRT.

Results: Adolescents preferred paper forms and computerized questionnaires over interviews with physicians or nurses. The CRAFFT was the best studied instrument for screening for alcohol/drug use and related problems, and is the only tool with data to support its use in medical settings. Other screening instruments require more testing/evaluation in more representative samples of adolescents in primary care settings. Long term follow-up data to establish the efficacy of SBIRT in adolescence are not available. Innovative computerized approaches to screening for substance use in this population have recently been proposed. Although promising, they require further evaluation.

Conclusions: The CRAFFT has the most consistent data to support its use in primary care settings. The effects of SBIRT in adolescence have not been adequately evaluated. Adolescents' opinions and preferences for SBIRT should be studied to improve their acceptance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Patient Preference
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires