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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Study: Self-Administered Screening Tool Helps to Detect Drug Use in Primary Care

A brief, self-administered screening questionnaire is useful for detecting unhealthy tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use among patients in a primary care setting, according to a study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

In the study, published online in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers report that a substance use screening tool they developed and piloted had generated results with strong “reliability, sensitivity, and specificity.” The questionnaire, which is filled out on a tablet computer, asks patients how many days in the last year they used tobacco, illegal drugs, and “recreational” prescription medications, and how often they drank at least four (for women) or five (for men) alcoholic drinks in a day. The tool was in part developed and tested by Dr. Richard Saitz, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

The questionnaire is “the first such screening instrument to be rigorously validated in primary care patients,” the researchers said. “We found that it was feasible to administer, with good sensitivity and specificity […] We believe its use can be recommended in primary care settings.”

To read more about the questionnaire, go to: