Brief screening instrument for adolescent substance abuse shows promise



A new screening test has shown promise in successfully identifying substance use in adolescents, which is crucial to pediatricians as even low levels of usage may indicate a need to intervene, according to Sharon M. Kelly, Ph.D., of Friends Research Institute in Baltimore, and her associates.

Of the 525 adolescents in the study, 21.5% reported using alcohol, 16% reported using marijuana, and 9.5% reported using tobacco during the past year. Three percent of participants reported using one or more drugs other than marijuana, including prescription opioids, prescription sedatives, and over-the-counter medications. One participant each reported using cocaine/crack, amphetamines, and misuse of prescription stimulants (Pediatrics 2014;133:819-26).

©Galina Barskaya/

The Brief Screener for Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs could be a useful tool for identifying substance abuse in teens.

The study was conducted by giving participants a short survey, the Brief Screener for Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs (BSTAD). Half of the study sample took the survey on a touch screen tablet, and the second half were interviewed by a research assistant. When asked about which mode they preferred, participants preferred taking the survey via tablet to taking it by interview or would have preferred using a tablet.

The study was based in Baltimore, with 92.8% of the participants being of African American descent, and the substance use reported in the study was in line with national data found for African Americans. Dr. Kelly and her associates recommended that research into the BSTAD be conducted in other population centers with a more diverse population.

The study was supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant and funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported no relevant financial disclosures.

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