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New clinical guideline is a positive step in alcohol and substance use prevention.

Most healthcare professionals agree that SBIRT--"Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment"--is a worthwhile and proven prevention practice that can substantially reduce the number of people who move from substance use to substance abuse and even addiction. The potential financial and social benefits of the SBIRT practice are compelling. I look forward to when SBIRT is a standard practice as common as an annual blood pressure check. But first, we must equip all Colorado health care professionals with resources they can use to incorporate SBIRT into their own approach to care.

The SBIRT Colorado team took a unique and significant step toward establishing screening for use of alcohol and other drugs as a standard healthcare practice by partnering with the Colorado Clinical Guidelines Collaborative (CCGC) to create a new Guideline for Substance Use Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).

Nearly 30 percent of Americans, although not dependent on alcohol or other drugs, consume at a level that elevates their risk for causing physical, mental or social harm. According to statistics from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the State of Colorado spends approximately $202 million annually on health care costs due to problems related to substance abuse. Following are compelling statistics that drive the need for SBIRT in Colorado:

* A 2002 Harvard study concluded colorado ranked second in severity nationwide on the overall Substance Abuse Problem Index, fifth on the Alcohol Problem Index, and 13th on the Drug Problem Index.

* the drug Abuse warning Network's "dAwN Live!" study reports that Colorado ranks 19 percent higher than the national average and fifth in the nation in per capita consumption of alcohol.

* According to statistics from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the State of Colorado spends approximately $202 million annually on healthcare costs due to problems related to substance abuse.

* Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs contribute to more than 70 diseases.

The Guideline recognizes the critical role health care professionals can play in preventing injury, disease and more severe substance use disorders. Through a brief screening, a health care professional can identify people with risky use early enough to interrupt progression to more serious use. Additionally, the Guideline promotes an open discussion between a health care professional and a patient, empowering patients to take charge of their health, and offers direction on how to connect patients who have substance dependence to specialized treatment.

If you haven't yet seen a hard-copy of the new Guideline, I encourage you to view the online version at Additionally, CCGC staff will host education seminars and in-office trainings across the state to raise provider awareness and encourage implementation among as many health care professionals as possible.

About SBIRT Colorado

Brie Riemann is program director of SBIRT Colorado. SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to one of the most preventable health issues--alcohol and other drug use. SBIRT Colorado delivers universal screenings to patients at 12 health care sites in Colorado, and is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and jointly administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services/Division of Behavioral Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment/Prevention Services Division. The project is managed by Peer Assistance Services, Inc. For more information and screening locations visit

by Brie Reimann, Program Director, SBIRT Colorado
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Author:Reimann, Brie
Publication:Colorado Nurse
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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