Our goal in implementing the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) tool at BVT is to keep students mentally and physically healthy by preventing them from using substances in the first place and to provide appropriate prevention, intervention, and referrals as quickly as possible to those students who may have tried substances. Following the procedures in our protocol, this screening tool will be used confidentially and individually for 10th-grade students at BVT. Students who are not using substances will have their healthy choices reinforced by the screener. Students found to be currently using substances, or at risk for future substance use, will be given a brief intervention, receive follow up counseling, and a referral for evaluation and treatment as needed.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug in the United States (SAMHSA, National Survey on Drug Use, 2006-07). Research has linked adolescent alcohol and drug consumption to a host of consequences, including poor school performance and an increased risk of addiction during adulthood. The Metro West Adolescent Health Survey was recently implemented during the fall of 2016. Students reported current use of alcohol (39 percent), cigarettes (9 percent), marijuana (28 percent), and prescription drugs (7 percent). Current use was defined as using one or more times in the past 30 days.
Substance use during adolescence is associated with various negative outcomes, including problems in school, injuries, emergency room visits, arrests, violence, and other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex. The younger a person is when he/she first uses alcohol or drugs, the greater the likelihood that he/she will become dependent and/or addicted as an adult. Additionally, heavy alcohol and marijuana use in adolescence may result in long-lasting functional and structural changes in the brain affecting memory and learning functions, decreasing motivation, and increasing the risk of serious mental illness.
The SBIRT model is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to prevent and/or delay the onset of substance use and to identify the small percentage of students thought to be at risk of substance use early. By screening BVT students, trained school staff will have the opportunity to reinforce students’ healthy choice to not use substances and provide brief interventions and/or referrals, if needed, for students who are at risk related to substance use.