What is SBIRT


Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach, focused on the delivery of early intervention and treatment services.

An intervention based on “motivational interviewing” strategies

  • Screening: Universal screening  quickly assesses use and severity of alcohol; illicit drugs; and prescription drug use, misuse, and abuse
  • Brief Intervention: Brief motivational and awareness-raising intervention given to risky or problematic substance users
  • Referral to Treatment: Referrals to specialty care for patients with substance use disorders

Treatment may consist of brief treatment or specialty AOD (alcohol and other drugs) treatment.


The primary goal of SBIRT is to identify and effectively intervene with those who are at moderate or high risk for psycho-social or health care problems related to their substance use.


  • SBIRT saves lives and money and is consistent with overall support for patient wellness.
  • Since 2003, SAMHSA has supported SBIRT programs, with more than 1.5 million persons screened.
  • Outcome data confirm a 40% reduction in harmful use of alcohol by those drinking at risky levels and a 55% reduction in negative social consequences.

Current Approach Towards Addiction Isn’t Working

Historically, treatment hasn’t been initiated until an individual is in crisis and unfortunately stigmatizing beliefs often perpetuate the idea that the individual is experiencing a moral failing or just lacks will power.

SBIRT proposes a public health approach that doesn’t wait until someone is in medical or legal crisis, rather seeks to identify at-risk users early.

  • Intervene with a broad population with more diversely trained professionals.
  • Addiction should be treated like other chronic illnesses.
  • Substance abuse and addiction is an epidemic effecting communities all over the world, United States, and especially in our local community.
  • Drug use is on the rise, yet most people report not being asked about their substance use. However, report being very willing to answer honestly about it.

Early intervention is key to addressing the addiction epidemic and reducing stigma!

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