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Screening for Substance Use Disorders in Jails

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2022
9 pages

This fact sheet introduces administrative, clinical, and non-clinical jail staff to substance-use disorder (SUD) screening instruments and their use in jail settings.


In discussing the rationale for SUD screening, the fact sheet indicates it helps jail staff anticipate and respond to behavioral and medical issues of inmates, mitigate the pain and discomfort of withdrawal from drugs, and determine the need for SUD treatment. The fact sheet advises that SUD screening should be conducted for every person at booking or intake and when transferred to other places in the correctional and community health-care systems. The fact sheet advises that screening tools are used to quickly determine whether a person may have a SUD. They are designed to reveal signs of recent or chronic substance use. Since most of the quick-screening tools require self-reported answers, additional input, observation, and drug testing should be used to confirm self-reported information at screening. Features of a reliable screening tool for SUD are listed. Basic profiles of brief screening tools are provided, based on an informal polling of jails and a scan of publications. Sources of additional information on this issue are provided



Date Published: February 1, 2022