June 27, 2016
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AAP recommends routine universal screening for adolescent substance use

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The AAP has released an updated policy statement on adolescent substance use that recommends universal screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment become part of routine health care.

“Substance use has an enormous direct and indirect public health impact on children and teenagers,” Sharon J.L. Levy, MD, MPH, FAAP, co-lead author of the AAP’s Committee on Substance Use and Prevention and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues wrote. “Pediatricians play a vital longitudinal role in the lives of adolescents and are uniquely positioned to effect change in adolescent patients’ health knowledge, behaviors and well-being.”

Every year, 83% of adolescents come into contact with a physician, the researchers wrote. In addition, adolescents are the age group at greatest risk for substance use-related consequences.

To help adolescents, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommended universal screening for substance use, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) to become part of routine health care. In addition, the AAP has recommended that pediatricians:

The AAP also advocates for:

  • continued research to determine the most effective brief intervention strategies;
  • health insurance providers to promote and pay for standard screening and brief intervention practices that are used in medical home health maintenance appointments;
  • health insurance providers to ensure a standard mechanism for payment of follow-up care; and
  • more equal access to substance use and mental health care when compared with general care that adolescents and adults already receive.

“Guidance about substance use can be provided in many forms,” Levy and colleagues wrote. “The low cost of SBIRT, minimal potential for harm, and emerging study results together support the tremendous potential for a population-level benefit from even small reductions in substance use.” – by Will Offit

Disclosure: Levy reports having a copyright relationship with Boston Children’s Hospital.