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Volume 10 Supplement 2

INEBRIA 12th Congress,

Screening and brief intervention for low risk drug use in primary care: a pilot randomized trial


Universal screening and brief intervention (SBI) for drug use among primary care (PC) patients lacks efficacy but the efficacy of SBI for low risk drug use is unknown. This 3-arm pilot study tested the efficacy of two brief interventions (BIs) for drug use compared to no BI in PC patients with low risk drug use identified by screening.

Material and methods

We randomly assigned participants identified by screening with Alcohol Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) drug specific scores of 2 or 3 (consistent with low risk drug use) to: no BI, a brief negotiated interview (BNI), or an adaptation of motivational interviewing (MOTIV). BNI was a 10-15 minute structured interview conducted by health educators. MOTIV was ¿45 minutes with an optional booster conducted by trained master's-level counselors. Primary outcome was number of days use of self-identified main drug in the past 30 as determined by validated calendar method at 6 months. Analyses were performed using negative binomial regression adjusted for baseline use and main drug.


Of 142 eligible adults, 61(43%) consented and were randomized. Participant characteristics were: mean age 41; 54% male; 77% black. Main drug was marijuana 70%, prescription opioid 10%, cocaine 15%; 7% reported injection drug use and mean days use of main drug (of 30) was 3.4. At 6 months, 93% completed follow-up and adjusted mean days use of main drug were 6.4 (no BI) vs 2.1 (BNI) (incidence rate ratio (IRR 0.33, 95% CI 0.15-0.74) and 2.3 (MOTIV) (IRR 0.36, 95% CI 0.15-0.85).


BI (both BNI and MOTIV) appears to have efficacy for preventing an increase in drug use in primary care patients with low risk use identified by screening. These findings raise the potential that less severe patterns of drug use in PC may be uniquely amenable to brief intervention and warrant replication in a larger trial.

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Correspondence to Richard Saitz.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Saitz, R., Meli, S.M., Palfai, T.P. et al. Screening and brief intervention for low risk drug use in primary care: a pilot randomized trial. Addict Sci Clin Pract 10, O45 (2015).

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  • Primary Care
  • Cocaine
  • Primary Care Patient
  • Negative Binomial Regression
  • Incidence Rate Ratio