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Addiction Science & Clinical Practice




BACKGROUND: Brief interventions such as Screening, a single session of Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) have shown mixed effectiveness in primary care. However, there are indications that multi-session brief interventions may demonstrate more consistently positive outcomes, and perhaps a more intensive approach would be of benefit in addressing substance use in primary care. This study compared the effectiveness of SBIRT with a single BI session (BI/RT) to a multi-session brief-treatment intervention (BI/RT+) in primary care. We also developed easy-to-use, evidence-based materials to assist clinicians in delivering these interventions.

METHODS/DESIGN: This study was conducted in three Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCs). A total of 10,935 patients were screened, and 600 individuals were recruited. The sample was primarily Black/African American (82 %) with a mean age of 40. Patients who attended a healthcare appointment were screened for substance use via the AUDIT and DAST. Patients were eligible for the study if they scored 8 or higher on the AUDIT, were using only marijuana and scored 2 or higher on the DAST, or were using other illicit drugs and scored 1 or higher on the DAST. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one-session BI/RT, or two to six sessions of brief intervention that incorporated elements of motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (BI/RT+). Both interventions were delivered by behavioral health consultants at the FQHCs. Participants completed follow-up assessments every 3 months for 1 year. Primary outcome variables included substance use treatment sessions attended and days of substance use. Secondary outcomes included measures of health, employment, legal, and psychiatric functioning and HIV risk behaviors. Additionally, we will conduct an economic evaluation examining cost-effectiveness and will analyze outcomes from a process evaluation examining patient and provider experiences.

DISCUSSION: The ability of brief interventions to impact substance use has great potential, but research findings have been mixed. By conducting a large-scale randomized controlled trial in real-world health centers, this study will answer important questions about the effectiveness of expanded BIs for patients who screen positive for risky substance use in primary care. Trial registration NCT01751672.


Copyright 2016 Chambers et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Chambers, J. E., Brooks, A. C., Medvin, R., Metzger, D. S., Lauby, J., Carpendo, K. E., Favor, K. E., & Kirby, K. C. (2016). Examining multi-session brief intervention for substance use in primary care: research methods of a randomized controlled trial. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 11(8).