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AAP Recommends Substance Abuse Screening as Part of Routine Adolescent Care


A new AAP policy statement recommends that pediatricians provide substance abuse education and screening to adolescents during routine clinical care, incorporating the universal Screening for Substance Use, Brief Intervention and/or Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) guidelines, designed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

In the statement, “Substance Use Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for Pediatricians,” published in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 31), the AAP recommends that pediatricians become knowledgeable about adolescent alcohol, cigarette and other drug use trends in their community, and screen all adolescents for alcohol and drug use during all health supervision and appropriate acute care visits using developmentally appropriate screening tools and intervention strategies. All adolescents can benefit from a physician’s advice regarding alcohol and drugs; adolescents who are addicted to substances should also be referred to an appropriate treatment facility. Physicians should keep in mind that psychiatric disorders can co-occur in adolescents who use psychoactive substances. Pediatricians should advocate that health care institutions and payment organizations provide mental health and substance abuse services for all ages and developmental stages, with the same quality and level of care as other primary and other health care services.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit