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Ambul Pediatr. 2007 Nov-Dec;7(6):458-62.

Screening for parental substance abuse in pediatric primary care.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Parental alcohol and drug abuse may have significant deleterious effects on children. Although screening in the pediatric office is recommended, few screening measures have been evaluated for use in this setting. We sought to validate a 2-question screening tool for parental substance abuse.


A total of 216 caregivers bringing children to a primary care clinic completed a brief screening for psychosocial problems that contained 2 substance abuse questions. To assess reliability and validity of the questionnaire, recruited caregivers returned within 2 months to complete a computerized study protocol that contained the brief screening questions and the substance abuse sections of the Composite International Diagnostic Inventory (CIDI).


Sixteen percent of caregivers acknowledged a problem with drugs or alcohol on the CIDI. A "yes" response to either screening question had a sensitivity of 29%, specificity of 95%, positive predictive value of 17%, and negative predictive value of 98% for drug abuse. Values were 13%, 96%, 33%, and 87%, respectively for predicting alcohol abuse.


Brief screening in pediatric primary care can identify many, but not all, parents who may need intervention for problems with drugs and/or alcohol. Children should benefit from such screening if it enables parents to acknowledge and receive treatment for substance abuse. Further research is needed to assess whether sensitivity of screening can be improved without sacrificing brevity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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