Infectious Disease Screening Not Performed at Many Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities

Fewer than half of all substance abuse treatment facilities surveyed nationwide reported that they conduct on-site infectious disease screening, according to a new study sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Rates of HIV, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis, and hepatitis C are high among drug users. Injection drug users, in particular, are at increased risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. These diseases, if not identified and treated, can pose a significant health threat to both the individual with the disease and to the community.

“Arranging for screenings for infectious diseases should be a routine part of substance abuse treatment services,” said SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, JD. “People enter treatment for different needs and screening provides an opportunity to identify additional healthcare needs as part of the recovery process.”

This study was based on data from the 2007 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), an annual census of all known facilities in the United States, both public and private, that provide substance abuse treatment.  The survey solicits information regarding the provision of on-site screening for the following infectious diseases: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.  Key findings include:

-- The facilities that were most likely to provide infectious disease screening were operated by the federal government, followed by a state government.

-- More than half of the approximately 1,100 opioid treatment programs provided on-site screening for hepatitis B (62.1 percent), hepatitis C (64.1 percent), HIV (69.8 percent), sexually transmitted diseases (67.8 percent), or tuberculosis (93.3 percent).

-- Facilities that provided hospital inpatient treatment were more likely than facilities providing outpatient or non-hospital residential treatment to offer screening for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, or tuberculosis.

-- Where available, the most common types of on-site screening were for tuberculosis, (34.3 percent), and HIV (29.7 percent).