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Screening and Identification

Key Issue:

Screening and Assessment Tools

The term "screening" refers to a method of determining the likelihood that an individual within a certain population (e.g. college students) has a specific problem (such as AOD abuse or dependence). Based on a student's response to fundamental questions regarding their drinking attitudes and behaviors, they are determined to have either a positive or a negative screen. A positive screen indicates the need for further assessment, a brief intervention , or more intensive treatment. Though screening is not a diagnostic procedure, many screening tools can distinguish with a high degree of accuracy between students who need further assessment or treatment and those who do not.

Screening can be used in many settings in a variety of ways to increase identification of high-risk students. For instance, many campuses screen students who have violated their school’s AOD policy, mandating those with positive screens to participate in some form of treatment. Research increasingly supports the use of screening, combined with a brief intervention, in other campus facilities such as university health clinics, counseling centers, and emergency rooms. Doctors, nurses, health educators, counselors and other staff can be trained to use screening instruments and deliver brief interventions in these settings. Though this method of screening and brief intervention has been shown to be effective as an indicated prevention strategy, it excludes many students.

Screening high-risk target populations such as incoming freshmen, fraternity/sorority members, or athletes, and referring those at highest risk to brief intervention services is also a promising practice. This selective prevention strategy allows for the identification of high-risk students who are not yet experiencing harmful consequences. Research suggests that some computer or web-based assessment and feedback programs can be successful in reducing student AOD use and associated consequences as well as increasing the likelihood of student participation in early intervention and treatment services. Computer/web-based methods can also be used for screening purposes, allowing campuses to reach a larger population of students while expending fewer resources.


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