Drug Abuse BLOG

SBIRT, otherwise known as Screening Brief Intervention Referral to Treatment, is defined by SAMHSA as an integrated and comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders. This approach makes use of public health approaches and may also comprise treatment for persons who may have the risk of developing these substance disorders.

SBIRT works by paying attention to persons who are at risk. This substance abuse prevention tool is being adapted by primary care centers, trauma centers, hospital emergency rooms and even other community health centers. It aims to prevent severe consequences of the use of illegal drugs.

A brief history on SBIRT

SBIRT was introduced in the later part of the 1990's. Back then, the focus was to address the whole area referring to substance use disorders. This type of approach is based on evidence and deals with problems that can have a great impact on daily (as well as weekly) use of alcohol, car crashes, DUI arrests and any other incidents related to alcohol and drug abuse.

These days, experts make use of formal screening approaches to detect the harms that may be a result of substance abuse. Counseling is also being given to patients who are positive of drug and alcohol use and misuse.

Three parts of the SBIRT

SBIRT's meaning as an acronym is divided into three parts namely:

    1. Screening. This is that part responsible for the quick assessment of the severity of substance abuse to know the treatment level to be employed on the patient.
    2. Brief Intervention. This is that part that takes charge of giving patients a better insight into the disorder. In like manner, brief intervention makes patients more focused on the goal of behavioral health change.
    3. Referral to Treatment. This is that part that provides extensive treatment to those who are gravely affected by substance abuse. At times, specialty care will also be given to the patient.

The continued growth of SBIRT

This can be attributed to several facts in medical practice such as:

    1. In 2007, there was the creation of the new specialty board known as the American Board of Addiction Medicine. This has certified around 3,000 physicians, coming from different areas of medical discipline.
    2. SBIRT barriers continue to diminish through time. In fact, there are states that have revoked insurance laws that were against the conduct of blood alcohol tests in emergency departments.
    3. In 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS, also allowed for reimbursement of expenses related to brief interventions and screening tests for substance abuse.

Concerns about SBIRT

If there are any issues being linked to SBIRT, these can be attributed to the beliefs of traditional addiction treatment professionals. Questions as to whether or not specialty providers have to compete with doctors to have patients undergo the screening and other parts of the SBIRT are being raised these days. Add to that, these experts want to know whether or not they can also build stronger ties with physicians. Furthermore, there is also that concern on whether fewer referrals will be given to specialists in this field.

SBIRT and its effectiveness

While many people have concerns about the implementation of SBIRT for the past years, there are studies that have proven the effectiveness of such approach to substance abuse users.
    1. For one, the approach was proven valuable in trauma centers. A special study, as cited by the online magazine Vendome Group under Addiction Professional, showed that patients were able to reduce their alcohol consumption by 22 drinks per week a year after trauma intervention. This is better when compared to the average 6-drink per week reduction in patients who did not undergo intervention.
    1. In another study, reducing the risk of re-injury through SBIRT meant $330-reduction in a 3-year medical cost. The return on investment or ROI was computed at a savings of $3.81 for every $1 spent for this approach.

Because of the studies made on SBIRT (especially that of its proven effectiveness in trauma centers), there is hope that this can form part of the standard medical care in the US. The practice is being pushed the mere fact that a lot of doctors are being board certified in the area of addiction medicine. To top that, young and new physicians in the field have also recognized the roles they play in substance abuse prevention.