Assessment of Screening Tools to Identify Substance Use Disorders Among Adolescents


Importance:

Efficient screening tools that effectively identify substance use disorders (SUDs) among youths are needed.


Objective:

To evaluate the psychometric properties of 3 brief substance use screening tools (Screening to Brief Intervention [S2BI]; Brief Screener for Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs [BSTAD]; and Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substances [TAPS]) with adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.


Design, setting, and participants:

This cross-sectional validation study was conducted from July 1, 2020, to February 28, 2022. Participants aged 12 to 17 years were recruited virtually and in person from 3 health care settings in Massachusetts: (1) an outpatient adolescent SUD treatment program at a pediatric hospital, (2) an adolescent medicine program at a community pediatric practice affiliated with an academic institution, and (3) 1 of 28 participating pediatric primary care practices. Participants were randomly assigned to complete 1 of the 3 electronic screening tools via self-administration, followed by a brief electronic assessment battery and a research assistant-administered diagnostic interview as the criterion standard measure for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnoses of SUDs. Data were analyzed from May 31 to September 13, 2022.


Main outcomes and measures:

The main outcome was a DSM-5 diagnosis of tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, or cannabis use disorder as determined by the criterion standard World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview Substance Abuse Module. Classification accuracy of the 3 substance use screening tools was assessed by examining the agreement between the criterion, using sensitivity and specificity, based on cut points for each tool for use disorder, chosen a priori from previous studies.


Results:

This study included 798 adolescents, with a mean (SD) age of 14.6 (1.6) years. The majority of participants identified as female (415 [52.0%]) and were White (524 [65.7%]). High agreement between screening results and the criterion standard measure was observed, with area under the curve values ranging from 0.89 to 1 for nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis use disorders for each of the 3 screening tools.


Conclusions and relevance:

These findings suggest that screening tools that use questions on past-year frequency of use are effective for identifying adolescents with SUDs. Future work could examine whether these tools have differing properties when used with different groups of adolescents in different settings.

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