Smoking, diet, exercise?  You probably are used to your medical provider asking you these questions but now a couple of other questions will be asked when you visit your medical provider— about your use of alcohol or other drugs.

You might be a bit hesitant to answer these questions because your medical provider has never brought up this topic before or you feel you might be judged for your use.   However, the purpose of these questions is to better understand your overall health and provide a confidential and safe environment to talk about all aspects of your health.  It is a known fact that both alcohol and other drugs can have a significant impact on your health, even if you do not drink heavily or use other drugs often.  Questions about alcohol or recreational drug use are as important a part of your routine medical exam as questions about diet and exercise.

It is estimated that only 4% of adults in the United States are alcohol dependent, but 25% of adults drink in a way that puts them and others at risk.  The SBIRT screening is aimed at those adults and the hope is that screening and information can help reduce the 88,000 deaths per year that are attributed to alcohol use.

The same is true of other drugs, both prescription and illegal substances.  In 2010 researchers found that approximately 3% of the U.S. population were users of drugs taken for non-medical reasons (or not used as prescribed).  This can lead to many health problems or complicate present medical issues.  Again, speaking with a medical professional who will provide you with information can help prevent dependency, health problems or death.

To determine the “risk” level of your use the medical providers at Spectrum Healthcare group are working with a nurse to provide SBIRT screenings.  SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment.  It is a prevention program that is designed to help people who may knowingly or unknowingly, use substances that put them at risk for developing dependency and/or health related problems associated with use.

Here’s how SBIRT works.  You will be asked two simple questions about drug and alcohol use.  Depending on your answers, you may be asked ten more questions specific to alcohol or drugs.  Your medical provider will go over the answers with you or may invite you to speak with a registered nurse who will explain your score, provide information about risk factors and assist anyone who wishes to reduce use.

The next time you see your medical provider, don’t be surprised when you are asked about your use of alcohol or other drugs.  Your medical provider wants to make sure you are getting all the information you need to make choices that will keep you healthy for a long time.


Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

       Maximum Daily Limit Maximum Weekly Limit
Women        3 7
Men        4 14
65 + years of age        3 7


You should refrain from drinking if: you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant; you are underage; you have certain medical conditions worsened by alcohol; you are on certain medications; and if you plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery.

What is a standard serving of Alcohol?

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12 oz. Beer ** 5 oz. wine 1.5 oz. liquor

** Most commercial beers are 4.5% alcohol content, malt liquor has about 7%, and some microbrews or specialty beers have an even higher alcohol content so the serving size would be smaller