The Role of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in the Perinatal Period

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Substance use during pregnancy is at least as common as many of the medical conditions screened for and managed during pregnancy. While harmful and costly, it is often ignored or managed poorly. Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment is an evidence-based approach to manage substance use. In September 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened an Expert Meeting on Perinatal Illicit Drug Abuse to help address key issues around drug use in pregnancy in the United States. This article reflects the formal conclusions of the expert panel that discussed the use of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment during pregnancy. Screening for substance use during pregnancy should be universal. It allows stratification of women into zones of risk given their pattern of use. Low-risk women should receive brief advice, those classified as moderate risk should receive a brief intervention, whereas those who are high risk need referral to specialty care. A brief intervention is a patient-centered form of counseling using the principles of motivational interviewing. Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment has the potential to reduce the burden of substance use in pregnancy and should be integrated into prenatal care.

Related Topics

  • Behavioral Health
  • Medical Care
  • Prevention