Office of National Drug Control Policy

Integrating Treatment and Healthcare

Identifying substance use disorders early, in any health care setting, can prevent addiction and save money in the healthcare system, local economy and will save lives.

It is critical for medical professionals to be able to identify the early signs of substance abuse in their patients and to intervene early

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)

SBIRT is a tool that healthcare professionals can use to ask patients about substance use during routine medical visits.

It helps healthcare providers identify patients with substance use disorders, provide them with medical advice, help them understand the health risks and consequences, and refer patients with more severe substance use-related problems to treatment.

From 2004 through 2008, Washington State achieved cost savings by targeting SBIRT to at-risk patients in emergency care settings and saved the state Medicaid program almost $2 million dollars per one year for just 1000 patients.

Screening and Brief Intervention is often as simple as a primary care doctor asking a few questions about a patient’s substance use history and providing feedback on how the patient can build a healthier life. This may include brief counseling or brief treatment for the patient focused on his or her alcohol or other drug use and its consequences. Early, brief interventions also pave the way for a patient whose alcohol or drug use goes beyond occasional heavy use to accept additional counseling or other services.