Brief Training Sessions Can Boost Pediatricians’ Use of Substance Abuse Interventions

A new study finds pediatricians who participate in two to three brief training sessions designed to identify and treat young people with potential alcohol, substance use and mental health problems are much more likely to conduct brief interventions with patients deemed at risk.

The study looked at pediatricians trained in screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT). Research has found that primary care physicians who conduct SBIRT with adult patients can reduce heavy drinking and its harmful consequences, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Recent research suggests use of SBIRT by pediatricians may prevent substance use problems from starting or increasing in young patients. Pediatricians often face barriers to providing SBIRT, such as time constraints and a lack of training, NIAAA noted in a news release.

The new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found pediatricians who received three one-hour SBIRT training sessions were about 10 times more likely (16 percent vs. 1.5 percent) to conduct brief interventions with patients considered at risk, compared with “usual care” pediatricians who did not receive the training.

The study also included a group of pediatricians who received one 60-minute SBIRT training session. This group was expected to assess patients and refer them as needed to clinical psychologists for interventions. In this group, the brief intervention rate was 24.5 percent.

“Many teenagers who drink establish patterns of substance use that will follow them into adulthood, which is why early intervention is important,” lead author Stacy Sterling, DrPHc, MSW, of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a news release.

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