Addiction Intervention - Screening | Center on Addiction

Addiction Prevention

Addiction Screening and Intervention

Routine screening for addiction and substance abuse should be conducted to identify early signs of trouble. Those who screen positive should receive a full diagnostic evaluation to determine if they have a substance problem or are at risk. Those who do not have addiction may benefit from a brief intervention, which can be an effective, low-cost approach to reducing risky use.

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Screening Tools

Screening Tools

A screening tool is used to identify people who may be using an addictive substance in risky ways and who may require an intervention or treatment. Screening tools typically include written or oral questionnaires or sometimes other tests involving blood, saliva, urine or hair samples.  

Who Conducts the Screening?

Physicians and other health professionals should routinely screen at-risk individuals for signs of addiction or substance abuse. Because not everyone sees a health care provider regularly, screening can also be conducted by trained professionals in schools, and other community settings.

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Only 11% of people who need treatment for addiction or drug or alcohol abuse receive any form of treatment.

Are You At Risk?

Get help for addiction: how to find quality treatment


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What is a Brief Intervention? 

Brief interventions offer advice, education, motivation or skills to help individuals reduce their substance use and avoid negative consequences. Brief interventions may be conducted in a single session or they may consist of several sessions, usually lasting 10-30 minutes. Brief interventions can save lives and reduce a broad range of negative health and social consequences, including accidents, sexual and other assaults, unintended pregnancies, other crimes and health problems, including addiction.

Who Conducts a Brief Intervention?

Brief interventions can be delivered by doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants, social workers and counselors who have been trained to provide these services. They can be conducted face-to-face or over the phone or assisted by a computer.


  • CASAColumbia. (2012). Addiction medicine: Closing the gap between science and practice.
  • CASAColumbia. (2011). Adolescent substance use: America's #1 public health problem.

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More than 90% of people with addiction or substance abuse began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18.

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