Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) can help health care and other professionals determine whether someone uses alcohol and/or drugs in unhealthy ways. Its components are:

Screening - Short, well-tested questionnaire identifies risk (such as the ASSIST, the CRAFFT, the AUDIT, the DAST, etc.)

Brief Intervention - Short, structured conversations that feature feedback and options for change

Referral - For in-depth assessment and/or diagnosis and/or treatment, if needed

Treatment - Between 1% and 10% may need some level of treatment - depending on the health care setting.

SBIRT is a public health approach to delivering early intervention to anyone who uses alcohol and/or drugs in unhealthy ways.

Research shows that health care providers can engage patients in non-judgmental conversations (brief interventions) about their substance use and can help them decide whether they should reduce their use to improve their long-term health.

Risky use can lead to serious harm. Beyond injuries and illnesses like HIV, it can complicate existing chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases or depression. It can also cause ulcers, sleep and memory problems, and anxiety. Alcohol affects most organ systems, and many drugs affect the nervous system, and heart rates

Screening can also indicate when health care providers should recommend assessment and treatment services for those whose screening scores indicate a problem.


Publications and other SBIRT resources

SBIRT patient materials are available for distribution in healthcare settings through the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse

Brief Treatment Manual

Modules use evidence-based approaches - motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques - to help clients build skills to positively change unhealthy behaviors and maintain those changes. The MASBIRT project, which developed this manual, found this approach to be helpful for those who might not meet dependence criteria but need more than brief conversations and for people who do not want to go to traditional treatment, but might be willing to speak with someone for a short period of time.

Helpful Links

SBIRT is recognized as an effective healthcare practice both nationally and internationally. Several US federal agencies promote routine screening and brief interventions to reduce the harm caused by risky substance use and to improve health care quality and patient safety.

NHTSA - National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recognizes that addressing risky alcohol and drug use can reduce highway crashes and repeat visits to trauma centers and emergency rooms.

NIDA - National Institute on Drug Abuse also supports Screening and Brief Interventions

  • NIDAMED - Screening Tools, Resources for Your Practice, Resources for Your Patients, Centers of Excellence for Physician Information

NIAAA - National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism produced several publications on the effectiveness of Screening and Brief Interventions

ONDCP - White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

  • Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral & Treatment

SAMHSA – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration continues to fund state/tribal SBIRT projects and SBIRT Medical Residency Training sites


This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.