What is SBIRT?

Identifying a Gap in Current Treatment

By sidestepping substance misuse or considering it untreatable, the healthcare system is ignoring its often hidden and sometimes deadly effects:

  • Alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States
  • 20% of patients drink or use drugs at risky levels; 5% have substance use disorders
  • One third of adult Emergency Room admissions are related to substance misuse
  • Problem drinkers have twice as many injury events per year and four times as many hospitalizations for injury as low risk drinkers
  • Substance misuse is a risk factor for multiple diseases and illnesses

Risky substance use is far more common than substance abuse but is seldom addressed in healthcare. Treatment for substance use is typically provided by specialized agencies focusing on patients with more severe use disorders. This system makes access difficult for those seeking treatment for risky substance use.

Supporting Evidence

SBIRT is rated as the fourth most effective activity for prevention ahead of other standard and well accepted prevention services such as screening and treatment for hypertension and flu immunizations by The Partnership for Prevention.

SBIRT, A Preventative Oriented Approach

SBIRT fills this huge gap by integrating a prevention oriented, public health approach to substance use problems into general medical care. The key elements of SBIRT include:

Screening all patients for early identification of substance use problems

Brief interventions for at risk patients using Motivational Interviewing principles and techniques to elicit their own motivation for change

Careful referral and "warm handoffs" to specialists for treatment of high risk patients