I recently came across news around newest hallucinogenic drug, Bromo-DragonFLY. Nearly similar in potency to LSD but with an extremely long duration of action (even up to several days), I’m sure many of the parents of the tweens and teens I care for have not even heard of this drug, and consequently, are unaware of the potentially disastrous side-effects from its use... including death.
At the same time, just this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with new recommendations urging health care providers to screen all adolescents for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use at every office visit. And without taking a poll of my colleagues in the community, I think it is fair to say that most of us are currently not using an actual screening device (and no, this doesn’t mean urine testing), but nor are some using even the simple verbal screening questionnaire to help identify potential areas of concern so that appropriate intervention and/or referrals can be made.
With well-child-care visits typically crammed into a short time period, it can be easy to not give the appropriate attention to substance use/abuse with teens. So having a questionnaire as the AAP recommends (kind of like the developmental screen we use for 15-18 month old toddlers), may help save a life in this vulnerable age period where adolescents are at highest risk of experiencing substance use/abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
Now the recommendations go on to discuss a particular screening tool -- called the CRAFFT screen -- where it asks questions about use of alcohol and drugs over the past 12 months. If the answers are “no” to these questions, the health care provider should ask the teen whether he/she ever placed him/herself at risk by being in the car of someone under the influence. However, if the teen answers “yes,” then further questions will follow to determine where he/she falls along the spectrum from experimentation to addiction.
Bottom-line, health-care providers need to do a better job in identifying and establishing appropriate treatment options for teenagers when issues of substance use/abuse arise.
It was only last weekend that I read an article in the paper about a local teenager who allegedly died from substance use/abuse issues. I just can’t help but think of how many of my local teenagers may have had a different outcome if the screening process had been in place for them.