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Why is SBIRT Important?

Talking about Alcohol and Substance Use can be uncomfortable. Yes, it’s true; at least 38 million adults in the US drink too much. What’s does too much look like? Drinking too much entails:

  • For MEN, “binge drinking” is 5 or more drinks consumed on 1 occasion (within 2 – 3 hours).
  • For MEN, 15 or more drinks on AVERAGE per week (1 drink = 5 oz of wine, 23-oz of beer, or 1 ½ oz of 80-proof distilled liquor).
  • For WOMEN, “binge drinking” is 4 or more drinks consumed on 1 occasion (within 2 – 3 hours).
  • For WOMEN, 8 or more drinks on AVERAGE per week (1 drink = 5 oz of wine, 23-oz of beer, or 1 ½ oz of 80-proof distilled liquor).

How does alcohol and substance use affect me?

Everyone has a friend or family member that engages in alcohol or substance use. For example, drinking alcohol too much is the cause of about 88,000 deaths in the US on a yearly basis, and furthermore costs the economy about $224 billion! Research suggests that brief interventions to reduce risky alcohol use by adults save about $6 million for every $1 spent on future health care costs. SBIRT contributes to quality health care and is an evidenced based assessment tool.

Statistics suggest that ONLY 1 in 6 adult talk about their alcohol consumption with their doctor, nurse or other health professional. It is important to have a conversation with your doctors and other health care professionals. Although we do not want to admit it, drinking too much is detrimental to your health it can lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.

So how does SBIRT work?

Screening…Keep it simple

  1. Just ask patients or clients about their drinking,
  2. Talk with patients or clients about the “good” and “not so good” things about their drinking
  3. Provide options: see if they are interested in learning about the effects of their drinking, inquire if they are open to cut down or seek help
  4. No matter what, always be respectful and non-judgmental of their responses! SBIRT is non-invasive, non-judgmental and universal!

Brief Intervention 

  1.  Build rapport and get to know your client
  2. Explore Pro’s and Con’s to alcohol or substance use – Develop Discrepancy
  3. Provide Feedback, Review Screen, Review Health Risks
  4. Build motivation and working towards action plan, utilize motivational techniques including importance, readiness and confidence scaling questions – Develop Action Plan
  5. Summarize and finalize action plan!

Well, can it be utilized with youth?

Of course it can, SBIRT provides early identification of risky behaviors in adolescents. SBIRT is an easy tool to have a conversation about alcohol or substance use with youth by means of providing a non-judgmental and critical way to talk about it!

Moving forward

The Massachusetts legislature is currently in the process of considering a bill that enables public schools to add SBIRT to their list of health screenings in hopes for students to making healthy decisions. This tool provides the opportunity to have an open conversation with teens and get them the help if needed.

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