One of the many ways that alcohol and drug problems can be detected and dealt with earlier on is through contact with primary care providers through doctors offices and hospitals. Recent news about Mass General Hospital indicated that they were going to implement substance abuse screening for every patient.
Some hospitals have begun or plan to start screening in emergency rooms, but doing seeping surveys seems to be like a good idea, as catching substance abuse issues earlier through this type of intervention can help avoid not just future health problems, but also other situations and costs caused by addiction.
Simple questions such as asking how often a patient has had more than five drinks on an occasion or used illicit drugs, when asked by a doctor, can often prompt truthful answers. Depending on those answers, the patients can then be given more information about the effects of substance abuse and a referral for treatment, if applicable.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has advocated for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) practices to be implemented by primary care physicians and other medical practitioners. The program includes focusing on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change.
Hopefully, as these screenings begin to happen more routinely around the country, there will be a greater percentage of people who are able to stop their substance abuse before it escalates into much bigger problems.