Primary care providers can be the first line of defense against addiction. They’re familiar with their patients and the patients’ medical history and are better equipped than most to recognize any significant changes in behavior or mental or physical health. Unfortunately, many general practitioners have little to no training on recognizing or treating substance abuse. One study on how primary care physicians address substance use disorders found that less than 20 percent described themselves as very prepared to identify alcoholism or illegal drug use in their patients.
In June 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Trials Network unveiled a new online screening tool designed to assess a patient’s risk for substance misuse and substance use disorder. It’s called the Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription medication, and other Substance use (TAPS) Tool, and it’s meant to catch substance abuse problems at the primary care level. It consists of a screening, followed by an assessment for people who test positive. It can be self-administered by the patient or done as an interview with a healthcare professional.
The questions are as follows, with the possible answers being never, less than monthly, monthly, weekly, daily or almost daily.
- In the past year, how often have you used a tobacco product?
- In the past year, how often have you had 5 or more drinks (men)/4 or more drinks (women) containing alcohol in one day?
- In the past year, how often have you used any prescription medications just for the feeling, more than prescribed or that were not prescribed for you?
- In the past year, how often have you used any drugs including marijuana, cocaine or crack, heroin, methamphetamine (crystal meth), hallucinogens, ecstasy/MDMA?
After finishing the survey, you receive a message about the implications of your results, letting you and your doctor know what risk category you fall into and what should be done moving forward to prevent a worsening of any existing dependence. The physician is then given a recommendation of how to proceed, including personalizing the message as much as possible. For example, someone who answered “never” to all the questions would be advised that they fall in the lowest risk category, and the doctor should advise them on prevention and provide positive reinforcement for abstinence.
This quick screening can eliminate the need for a variety of time-consuming and potential expensive tests, and it can take place during a regular checkup with your family doctor. A study was conducted by the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, examining five adult primary care clinics and 2,000 adult patients. The study found that it could detect “clinically relevant problem substance use,” but that it wasn’t always accurate when it came to some less frequently used illegal substances.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.