Screening and Brief Intervention for Unhealthy Substance Use in Patients With Chronic Medical Conditions: A Systematic Review

J Clin Nurs. 2016 Nov;25(21-22):3131-3143. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13244. Epub 2016 May 3.

Abstract

Aims and objectives: This systematic review describes studies evaluating screening tools and brief interventions for addressing unhealthy substance use in primary care patients with hypertension, diabetes or depression.

Background: Primary care is the main entry point to the health care system for most patients with comorbid unhealthy substance use and chronic medical conditions. Although of great public health importance, systematic reviews of screening tools and brief interventions for unhealthy substance use in this population that are also feasible for use in primary care have not been conducted.

Design: Systematic review.

Methods: We systematically review the research literature on evidence-based tools for screening for unhealthy substance use in primary care patients with depression, diabetes and hypertension, and utilising brief interventions with this population.

Results: Despite recommendations to screen for and intervene with unhealthy substance use in primary care patients with chronic medical conditions, the review found little indication of routine use of these practices. Limited evidence suggested the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-C screeners had adequate psychometric characteristics in patients with the selected chronic medical conditions. Screening scores indicating more severe alcohol use were associated with health-risk behaviours and poorer health outcomes, adding to the potential usefulness of screening for unhealthy alcohol use in this population.

Conclusions: Studies support brief interventions' effectiveness with patients treated for hypertension or depression who hazardously use alcohol or cannabis, for both substance use and chronic medical condition outcomes.

Relevance to clinical practice: Although small, the international evidence base suggests that screening with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test or Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-C and brief interventions for primary care patients with chronic medical conditions, delivered by nurses or other providers, are effective for identifying unhealthy substance use and associated with healthy behaviours and improved outcomes. Lacking are studies screening for illicit drug use, and using single-item screening tools, which could be especially helpful for frontline primary care providers including nurses.

Keywords: alcohol; brief intervention; chronic medical conditions; depression; diabetes; drugs; hypertension; nursing; primary care; screening.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*