Unknown female doctor at desk isolated on white background

Risky substance use and substance use disorders can profoundly impact physical and mental health. They may also cause or exacerbate social problems like domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, underemployment.

Health and human service professionals need strategies to address substance use and determine its role in an individual’s overall physical, mental, and social health.

Here are three basic approaches to including health and human services professionals in efforts to address and reduce risky substance use.

1: Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)

SBIRT is the linchpin of health and human service providers’ ability to prevent, recognize, and intervene in response to risky substance use. And luckily, anyone can do it.

Learn more about SBIRT

At least 38 million adults in the US drink too much. Only 1 in 6 adults talk with their doctor, nurse, or other health professional about their drinking. Alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce the amount consumed on an occasion by 25% by those who drink too much.

– Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 2014

2: Pre-service education

Pre-service education for health and human service professionals is another strategy for better identifying patients and clients whose lives are adversely affected by substance use. IRETA has provided pre-service training on evidence-based addiction treatment for medical students, nursing students, dental anesthesiology students, social work students, and dental students.

View a case study of our pre-service education program for medical students

Despite the enormous costs to individuals and society from alcohol and co-morbid drug-related disorders…a recent study found that the average four-year medical school devoted a total of only 12 hours of curricular time to these disorders.

– Academic Medicine, 2001

Of the 58 masters of social work programs reviewed, 1 program required at least 1 course in substance abuse and 37 offered at least 1 elective.

– Substance Abuse, 2014

3: Interprofessional collaborative practice

Interprofessional collaborative practice capitalizes on the vital role that health and human service providers play in improving individual and public health. By working as part of a patient-centered team, providers can better recognize and address risky substance use and substance use disorders.

Interprofessional practice is a skill, like any other. In the Affordable Care Act environment, it is more important than ever.

View our Interprofessional Collaborative Practice online course (Registration required; enrollment is free)

Health care delivery professionals jointly with public health professionals share roles and responsibilities for addressing health promotion and primary prevention needs related to behavioral change.

– Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel, 2011


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Health and Human Services Professionals: Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly about ways to address risky substance use and substance use disorders more effectively.