Leveraging technology to address unhealthy drug use in primary care: Effectiveness of the Substance use Screening and Intervention Tool (SUSIT)

Jennifer McNeely, Medha Mazumdar, Noa Appleton, Amanda M. Bunting, Antonia Polyn, Steven Floyd, Akarsh Sharma, Donna Shelley, Charles M. Cleland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Screening for unhealthy drug use is now recommended for adult primary care patients, but primary care providers (PCPs) generally lack the time and knowledge required to screen and deliver an intervention during the medical visit. To address these barriers, we developed a tablet computer-based ‘Substance Use Screening and Intervention Tool (SUSIT)’. Using the SUSIT, patients self-administer screening questionnaires prior to the medical visit, and results are presented to the PCP at the point of care, paired with clinical decision support (CDS) that guides them in providing a brief intervention (BI) for unhealthy drug use. Methods: PCPs and their patients with moderate-risk drug use were recruited from primary care and HIV clinics. A pre-post design compared a control ‘screening only’ (SO) period to an intervention ‘SUSIT’ period. Unique patients were enrolled in each period. In both conditions, patients completed screening and identified their drug of most concern (DOMC) before the visit, and completed a questionnaire about BI delivery by the PCP after the visit. In the SUSIT condition only, PCPs received the tablet with the patient’s screening results and CDS. Multilevel models with random intercepts and patients nested within PCPs examined the effect of the SUSIT intervention on PCP delivery of BI. Results: 20 PCPs and 79 patients (42 SO, 37 SUSIT) participated. Most patients had moderate-risk marijuana use (92.4%), and selected marijuana as the DOMC (68.4%). Moderate-risk use of drugs other than marijuana included cocaine (15.2%), hallucinogens (12.7%), and sedatives (12.7%). Compared to the SO condition, patients in SUSIT had higher odds of receiving any BI for drug use, with an adjusted odds ratio of 11.59 (95% confidence interval: 3.39, 39.25), and received more elements of BI for drug use. Conclusions: The SUSIT significantly increased delivery of BI for drug use by PCPs during routine primary care encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-572
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • HIV
  • Unhealthy drug use
  • brief intervention
  • primary care
  • screening
  • substance use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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