SBIRT Can Help

Moving Toward a Potential Solution

There is no panacea for substance use, misuse, and abuse, but there is an emerging technique called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) that has proven to be effective in many cases. Not only has it been shown to be effective, it is efficient in terms of time and effort expended!

What is SBIRT?

An Early Intervention Approach

The SBIRT Initiative represents a paradigm shift in the provision of treatment for substance use and abuse. The services are different from, but designed to work in concert with, specialized or traditional treatment.

New Target Population

SBIRT flowchart

The primary focus of specialized treatment has been persons with more severe substance use or those who have met the criteria for a Substance Use Disorder. The SBIRT Initiative targets those with non-dependent substance use and provides effective strategies for intervening with these individuals while also including procedures for referring those who need more extensive or specialized treatment.

SBIRT addresses those relatively small but frequent problems that are related to alcohol and other drug use, and in addition, allows for opportunistic identification and referral of patients who may have a clinical alcohol or drug use disorder.

With SBIRT, providers can address myriad relatively small problems early and rapidly (e.g. insomnia, stomache ache, drug interactions, etc.) and prevent another set of problems from occurring (i.e. injury, infection, etc.). Even though these problems are relatively small compared to alcoholism (i.e. liver disease, esophagel varices, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, etc.), there are so many more of them and collectively they affect a wider range of our patients and, in the long run, may contribute a much larger cost to our health care system. SBIRT allows you to systematically address these smaller substance use problems with each and every one of your patients while it also enables you to identify patients with more significant substance misuse and abuse issues. Its a win-win for you and your patients.

SBIRTSBIRT consists of three key components, the S, BI, and RT:

  • Screening quickly assesses the severity of substance use and identifies the appropriate level of treatment.
  • Brief Intervention focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change.
  • Referral to Treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.

SBIRT has been shown to be effective in multiple settings and is endorsed by numerous organizations and government agencies, including the USDHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In this course, evidence and procedures for each of the three major SBIRT components are discussed in their own learning modules after a brief module on substance abuse basics.