Prevention | Youth Prevention

Screening, Brief Intervention, & Referral to Treatment

SBIRT Defined.

Screening, Brief Intervention, & Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for persons with substance use disorders, as well as those who are at risk of developing these disorders.

  • Screenings can quickly assess for the presence of risky substance use, allow for following positive screens with further assessment of problem use, and identify the appropriate level of treatment.
  • Brief interventions focus on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change.
  • Referral to treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.

SBIRT is designed to be universal; to be applied to every person in any setting. Widespread use of SBIRT would serve to make conversations about substance use routine, more comfortable, and less stigmatized. We’ve already begun to see younger generations speak more openly about mental health, sexuality, and other historically “private” topics. SBIRT is a way to push conversations about substance use into the open and bring about a cultural shift in the way we view and talk about alcohol and other drug use and addiction.

This guide was developed with the guidance of the Recovery Research Institute. Please visit their site for more evidenced-based information on treatment and recovery.


“ SBIRT screenings can quickly assess for the presence of risky substance use.


The individual components of SBIRT should also be considered:

  • “S” (screening) is supported by the research evidence in the sense that we have several validated screening tools (including the CRAFFT and the S2B) that have been shown to indicate whether an adolescent is engaging in risky substance use.
  • “Brief Interventions” (the “BI” in SBIRT) typically use motivational interviewing techniques.
  • “RT” (or Referral to Treatment) is not well-supported by evidence. There are many factors that come into play here. One is the small number of youth-focused treatment options. Another is the number of variables blocking access to treatment, such as financial means, geographic location, and other circumstances.

Additional Prevention Resources

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Recovery: Defined

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Facts About Drugs

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Facts About Alcohol

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Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

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View more online resourcess


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