AAP recommends routine substance abuse screening for adolescents

November 1, 2011

A new American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement advocates that substance abuse education and screening be included as routine components of adolescent care.

A new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement advocates that substance abuse education and screening be included as routine components of adolescent care.

Because teens can be susceptible to risk-taking behaviors such as using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs without addressing the consequences of the health risks involved, the AAP policy statement provides pediatricians with additional guidance and tools for the prevention, detection, and management of adolescent substance abuse.

Health risks from substance abuse "can occur long before there is drug addiction," says the AAP, and adolescence is "a period of neurodevelopmental vulnerability for developing addictions."

Physicians are encouraged to become familiar with the developmentally appropriate Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment (SBIRT) guidelines, designed by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and other intervention strategies designed specifically for use with adolescents.

The AAP also recommends that pediatricians practice motivational-interviewing techniques for communicating with adolescent patients, develop working relationships with licensed professionals and programs for substance abuse prevention and treatment, keep up to date with state and federal regulations regarding health information privacy, and incorporate proper coding to bill for substance abuse services.

Committee on Substance Abuse. Substance use screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for pediatricians. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):e1330-e1340.