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Clinical Summary

Drug Use, Illicit: Screening

Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. government. They should not be construed as an official position of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Clinical Summary of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation

This document is a summary of the 2008 recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on screening for illicit drug use. This summary is intended for use by primary care clinicians.

Select for copyright and source information.

Population Adolescents, Adults, and Pregnant Women Not Previously Identified as Users of Illicit Drugs
Recommendation No Recommendation
Grade I: (Insufficient Evidence)
Screening Tests

Toxicologic tests of blood or urine can provide objective evidence of drug use, but do not distinguish occasional users from impaired drug users.

Valid and reliable standardized questionnaires are available to screen adolescents and adults for drug use or misuse.

There is insufficient evidence to evaluate the clinical utility of these instruments when widely applied in primary care settings.

Conclusions Regarding Net Benefit

The USPSTF concludes that for adolescents, adults, and pregnant women, the evidence is insufficient to determine the benefits and harms of screening for illicit drug use.

Suggestions for Practice

Clinicians should be alert to the signs and symptoms of illicit drug use in patients.


More evidence is needed on the effectiveness of primary care office-based treatments for illicit drug use/dependence.

Other Relevant Recommendations from the USPSTF

The USPSTF recommendation for screening and counseling interventions to reduce alcohol misuse by adults and pregnant women can be found here.

For a summary of the evidence systematically reviewed in making these recommendations, the full recommendation statement, and supporting documents please go to

Copyright and Source Information

This document is in the public domain within the United States.

Requests for linking or to incorporate content in electronic resources should be sent via the USPSTF contact form.

Current as of: January 2008

Internet Citation: Clinical Summary: Drug Use, Illicit: Screening. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. June 2016.

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