The Basics of Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment in the Emergency Department
Nearly eight million emergency department (ED) visits are attributed to alcohol every year in the United States. A substantial proportion is due to trauma. In 2005, 16,885 people were killed as a result of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. Patients with alcohol-use problems (AUPs) are not only more likely to drive after drinking but are also at greater risk for serious alcohol-related illness and injury. Emergency departments have an important and unique opportunity to identify these patients and intervene during the “teachable moment” of an ED visit. The American College of Emergency Physicians, Emergency Nurses Association, American College of Surgeons-Committee on Trauma, American Public Health Association, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have identified Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) as a pivotal injury and illness-prevention strategy to improve the health and well-being of ED patients. We provide a general overview of the basis and need for integrating SBIRT into EDs. Models of SBIRT, as well as benefits and challenges to its implementation, are also discussed.