Adolescent AOD Use, Poor Mental Health and Brief Intervention


A new study published in BMC Family Practice examined the patterns of adolescent alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, screening and intervention in primary care (PC), and AOD risk associations with mental health care. 

The study sample was 1279 diverse adolescents ages 12–18 who reported visiting a doctor at least once in the past year. 

Study findings included: 

  • Half (49.2%) of the adolescents reported past year AOD use.
  • Of the 769 (60.1%) of adolescents that reported being asked by a medical provider in PC about AOD use, only 37.2% reported receiving screening/intervention.
  • The odds of reported screening/intervention were significantly higher for adolescents with higher AOD risk and lower mental health scores. 

The authors concluded: 

  • Risky AOD use among adolescents is a concern, particularly among those with poor mental health functioning.
  • There is a need to decrease barriers to screening and intervention with adolescents at risk for AOD in primary care.
  • It’s important to identify practical, effective and cost-effective strategies for addressing adolescent AOD use in primary care settings.
  • Those who screen positive for AOD use should receive some intervention. 

The implications drawn of this research include: 

  1. Screening and brief intervention is ideally suited for busy, time-strapped settings such as primary care, but also schools, colleges, sports and recreation leagues, youth and family agencies, faith-based organizations, juvenile justice settings, and even at home.
  2. Screening and brief intervention should be used whenever and wherever there are at-risk youth, such as those with poor mental health functioning, but also for general youth populations to expand reach to all youth and young adult populations.
  3. Barriers to using screening and brief intervention include the complexity of the strategy and lack of knowledge and skill. These barriers can be overcome, however, with screening and brief interventions that use scripted protocols that allow for easier implementation, and the provision of training to ensure knowledge and skills to enhance fidelity of implementation.
  4. Examples of practical, effective and cost-effective strategies for addressing AOD use among young people in primary care and other settings include the SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness program for youth and the InShape Prevention Plus Wellness program for college students and other young adults. Both screening and brief interventions are evidence-based, are just a single-session in length, include scripted protocols for ease of implementation, come with onsite training, and cost-effectively integrate substance use prevention with the promotion of physical activity and healthy behaviors and positive self-images of youth and young adults.  These features increase youth, parent and provider interest and participation in screening and brief intervention. 
  5. Unlike some screening and intervention strategies, all Prevention Plus Wellness programs include both screening AND brief intervention and can be used for general youth populations to prevent substance while promoting wellness lifestyles, as well as at-risk youth populations to promote substance use avoidance and general well-being.   

Read the entire research article: https://bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12875-017-0689-y 

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