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Screening for Substance Abuse? There’s an App for That

By: Megan Hesse

The United States is a country in the throes of an addiction crisis that has shown few signs of stopping. Currently, opioid overdoses alone claim more than 115 lives per day. Roughly 1 in 7 Americans are grappling with substance use disorders, overshadowing common health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

However, we are also in the midst of a personalized technology explosion, and, in an effort to increase access to recovery resources, many app developers are fighting back against drugs and alcohol with addiction apps.

Currently, those in recovery can download free apps that can allow users to track their sobriety, do weekly check-ins, find support communities in their area, and also offer an “SOS” or “beacon” feature—a kind of emergency button for those in danger of relapsing.

Many of these evidence-based apps have proven to be incredibly useful for those in recovery, and now the nonprofit Northwell Health and Center on Addiction has created a different kind of substance abuse app, one that’s meant for health care providers to catch growing substance abuse issues before they’ve developed into an addiction.

Spotting Substance Abuse Before It’s Too Late

According to Sandeep Kapoor, MD, the director of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) at Northwell Health, the average doctor in the United States receives fewer than two hours of training on the issue of substance use and even less than that on substance use disorders. Because of this lack of knowledge, doctors are unable to properly identify the symptoms of a substance use disorder, allowing many people in the early stages of substance abuse to slip through the cracks and not receive treatment that could stop an addiction before it truly develops.

Northwell Health’s app is called The SBIRT for Health Professionals, and it is a substance use screening tool that is designed to close this gap in education in the medical community by helping health care providers identify at-risk patients with a set of standardized questions and provide guidance on how to speak to patients about getting into treatment or other possible options.

Addictions such as opioid dependence have reached a critical mass to the point where health care providers can no longer afford to be ignorant of what substance misuse or abuse looks like. In the same press release, Kapoor pointed out, “Just as we check patients’ blood pressure and measure weight to protect their health, it’s important for us to screen for and understand patients’ substance use status.”

What Is SBIRT?

As the name implies, The SBIRT for Health Professionals app provides a streamlined form of an evidence-based treatment model known as SBIRT:

  • Screening: In which a health care professional assesses a given patient for risky substance use behaviors using questions and other standardized screening tools.
  • Brief Intervention: If the patient is shown to be at-risk for substance abuse or engaging in substance misuse or abuse, the health care professional provides feedback and advice on how to handle these behaviors and stop them from progressing.
  • Referral to Treatment: Finally, if it is deemed necessary, the health care professional will provide the patient with a referral to receive additional specialized treatment or therapy.

Medical professionals have previously been able to receive SBIRT training but with this new substance use screening tool, any health care practitioner can become more savvy about spotting at-risk behaviors and taking the proper follow-up steps.

A Modern Guide for a Widespread Problem

By providing the necessary information and guidance, Northwell Health’s app will hopefully be able to aid medical practitioners and health care professionals in successfully spotting substance use behaviors and empower them to take the necessary next steps with their patients. This can be a conversation broaching the topic of addiction or a referral to help patients get access to potentially life-saving treatment.

This new SBIRT app may signal a shift toward the way addiction is addressed in the United States. This app just may improve addiction education accessibility and help break down the stigma associated with substance use disorders by teaching healthcare practitioners how to comfortably engage in these conversations with their patients.

Kapoor said of the app, “We created this so it would be widely used. Let’s humanize this conversation.” The SBIRT for Health Professionals app is currently available on tablets for free in the Apple App Store and is currently in development for Android devices and laptops as well.

Are You Struggling with Substance Abuse?

If you or a loved one is currently struggling with a substance use disorder, it can feel overwhelming and isolating. But there is hope and there is help. At Delphi Behavioral Health Group, our professional and compassionate call representatives are available 24/7 to help you find the treatment options that best the needs of you or your loved one.

So don’t wait any longer, call Delphi Behavioral Health Group now at 844-899-5777 or contact us online for more information.

Author

Sebastian Gonzalez

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