Screening for Unhealthy Drug Use: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Review of 90 studies (n=84,206) found that psychosocial interventions helped increase abstinence (RR 1.6, 95% CI 1.24-2.13) vs no intervention, and opioid agonist therapy & naltrexone decreased risk of drug use relapse (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.62-0.85) vs placebo or no medicine.

SPS commentary:

The analysis highlights that there was no evidence for direct benefits or harms of drug screening despite several instruments being available.

The US Preventative Service Taskforce have also made recommendations based on this research.  They recommend screening questions for unhealthy drug use in facilities that can offer accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate care.

A related editorial discusses this research, confirming the lack of clear data for screening tools.  A separate commentary in JAMA psychiatry highlights the potential social consequences for screening for drug use, and the balance to be struck between beneficence and proactive healthcare vs paternalism.


Journal of the American Medical Association

Resource links:

US Preventative Service Taskforce Statement


JAMA Psychiatry Commentary