13 screening instruments for detecting illicit drug use in general hospital settings: a systematic review


Cross sectional studies (Mordal et al) tell us that around a third of patients admitted to acute psychiatric wards have illicit drugs detected in their system on admission. A third of patients also report a need for professional help in relation to their substance use.

This new systematic review from researchers at York University (Mdege and Lang) aimed to identify the best screening instrument to detect illicit drug use in the general hospital setting.

They conducted a systematic search and found 13 instruments to include in their analysis:

  3. DAST
  5. DUDIT
  6. DUS
  8. SIP-AD
  9. SDS
  11. SSI-SA
  12. TICS
  13. UNCOPE

Unfortunately when they assessed the instruments for reliability, validity, feasibility and acceptability, they found that none of them had been tested sufficiently in general hospital wards. They were therefore unable to recommend any of them for this purpose.

The reviewers concluded:

The review identified and described 13 instruments that could be useful in general hospital wards. There is however lack of evaluation of illicit drug use screening instruments in general hospital wards. Currently clinicians or researchers searching for a simple, reliable, general screening instrument for current drug use to guide practice or research in general hospital wards do not have enough comparative evidence to choose between the available measures.


Mdege ND, Lang J. Screening instruments for detecting illicit drug use/abuse that could be useful in general hospital wards: a systematic review. Addict Behav. 2011 Dec;36(12):1111-9. Epub 2011 Jul 23. [PubMed abstract]

Mordal J, Holm B, Gossop M, Romøren M, Mørland J, Bramness JG. Psychoactive substance use among patients admitted to an acute psychiatric ward: laboratory findings and associations with clinical characteristics. Nord J Psychiatry. 2011 Jun;65(3):208-15. [PubMed abstract]

Share on Facebook Tweet this on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+
Mark as read
Create a personal elf note about this blog
Profile photo of Andre Tomlin

Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

More posts - Website

Follow me here –