Disclosure of Adolescent Substance Use in Primary Care: Comparison of Routine Clinical Screening and Anonymous Research Interviews

J Adolesc Health. 2019 Apr;64(4):541-543. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.10.009. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Purpose: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends substance use screening in adolescent primary care. Many studies of substance use prevalence and screening tool validation are conducted under research protocols that differ from routine clinical screening in context, consequences, and privacy implications.

Methods: This study is a secondary analysis drawing from two projects focused on adolescent primary care patients, aged 12-17, conducted nearly contemporaneously in a Federally Qualified Health Center system. The first project conducted anonymous research interviews with patients (N = 525), while the other tracked routine clinical screening as part of a larger service implementation project (N = 5,971). Both projects assessed substance use with the CRAFFT screening tool.

Results: Rates of substance use disclosure and substance use problems were over three and four times higher, respectively, in the anonymous research interview sample compared to rates found in routine clinical screening (p values < .001).

Conclusions: Routine clinical screening may underestimate substance use among adolescents.

Keywords: Primary care; Screening; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anonymous Testing*
  • Child
  • Disclosure*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*