A single question can accurately identify drug-use disorders among primary-care patients, a recent study indicates.

Trained research staff posed the following question to adult patients recruited from primary-care waiting rooms at an urban academic medical center: “How many times in the past year have you used an illegal drug or used a prescription medication for nonmedical reasons?” A response of one or more times was considered positive for drug use. Participants were then asked if they had ever experienced any of a list of problems related to drug use and then submitted to oral-fluid testing to determine the presence of common drugs of abuse (e.g., opiates, benzodiazepines, and cocaine).

Among 286 participants, the screening question proved to be 100% sensitive and 73.5% specific for the detection of a drug-use disorder. It was slightly less sensitive (92.9%) for the detection of self-reported current drug use and for drug use detected by oral-fluid testing or self-report (81.8%) (Arch Intern Med. 2010:170:1155-1160).