InSight Clinic

Texas is one of six states to receive federal funds to bring alcohol and drug screening into the general medical setting. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker has more on the InSight clinic at Ben Taub Hospital.

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The idea behind the InSight Clinic is that alcohol and drug abuse problems are so common that they can't be handled only in mental health or substance abuse settings. Medical Director Katie McQueen says the idea is to get doctors and nurses to do the screening.

"And so we train generalists to ask questions in a non-judgmental way. Do you smoke or use tobacco products? Do you drink beer, wine, liquor? When's the last time you had more than four drinks in one day? Do you use cocaine, marijuana, or other drugs?"

Depending on the answers, the patients are referred to the InSight Clinic. During the past two years, the clinic has seen more than 6,000 hospital district patients. McQueen says they share information about possible abuse.

"Did you know that for a man, it's recommended that you never have more than five drinks per occasion and that you not have 14 in a week?"

For women, more than four in a day and seven in a week can cause problems.McQueen says many people don't know the guidelines surrounding alcohol. They go through a short list of ten questions to assess the patient.

"After that assessment as a specialist I get a sense of whether this is just risky, whether this is a diagnosis of abuse or if this is diagnosis of dependence."

If a person is dependent, they are referred to other treatment facilities. For the other cases, InSight offers brief one on one counseling, the number of times depends on the persons past behavior, but generally range from one to about a dozen. McQueen says they try to tie the substance use to other things going on in the person's life.

"We might focus on whether you want to get into school, or you want a new job, or you want something different at home. And then draw the connection between substance use and other things in your life."

McQueen says the idea is to find goals in a person's life that provides the motivation to change their behavior.

"When we first got the grant, the evidence wasn't that strong around cocaine and other drugs. And the thought was how is 15 to 30 minutes going to make a difference with cocaine use? But we've actually found that while it's not most of the patients, about a quarter of the patients who use cocaine actually decrease or stop when we follow them up in six months."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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