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Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2013 Apr 8;8(1):8. doi: 10.1186/1940-0640-8-8.

Randomized controlled trial to evaluate screening and brief intervention for drug-using multiethnic emergency and trauma department patients.



Screening and brief intervention (SBI) is a comprehensive, integrated public health approach to identify and deliver a spectrum of early detection and intervention services for substance use in general medical care settings. Although the SBI approach has shown promise for alcohol use, relatively little is known about its effectiveness for illicit drug use. We are evaluating the SBI approach for drug use using a rigorous randomized controlled trial. The purpose of the report is to describe the overall trial and its programmatic and methodological strengths with a focus on health educator (HE) selection and training. In addition, the baseline characteristics of the recently enrolled multiethnic cohort are described.


A randomized two-group repeated measures design is being used in which drug-related outcomes of an intervention group will be compared with those of an attention-placebo control group. Selection of bicultural paraprofessional HEs-their training in research concepts, comorbid mental health issues, special treatment of marijuana use, and nonscripted enhanced motivational interviewing as well as their ongoing monitoring and evaluation-are among the features described. The HEs enrolled, consented, and conducted an intervention among 700 illicit drug users in two large hospital emergency departments/trauma units. To be eligible, a participant needed to be an adult (age ≥18 years), an English or Spanish speaker, awake and able to give consent, and reachable by telephone to schedule a six-month follow-up interview.


A comprehensive HE training protocol combined with rigorous, ongoing process measurement resulted in skill mastery in many areas and a successful participant recruitment period. Strengths and limitations of the study protocol are discussed as well as the characteristics of those recruited. This trial will be among the first to provide information about the effectiveness of SBI for illicit drug use. Outcome analysis has not yet been completed, but demonstrated programming and design successes have implications for future research and service delivery.



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