Identifying substance misuse in primary care: TAPS Tool compared to the WHO ASSIST

R. P. Schwartz, J. McNeely, L. T. Wu, G. Sharma, A. Wahle, C. Cushing, C. D. Nordeck, A. Sharma, K. E. O'Grady, J. Gryczynski, S. G. Mitchell, R. L. Ali, J. Marsden, G. A. Subramaniam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is a need for screening and brief assessment instruments to identify primary care patients with substance use problems. This study's aim was to examine the performance of a two-step screening and brief assessment instrument, the TAPS Tool, compared to the WHO ASSIST. Methods: Two thousand adult primary care patients recruited from five primary care clinics in four Eastern US states completed the TAPS Tool followed by the ASSIST. The ability of the TAPS Tool to identify moderate- and high-risk use scores on the ASSIST was examined using sensitivity and specificity analyses. Results: The interviewer and self-administered computer tablet versions of the TAPS Tool generated similar results. The interviewer-administered version (at cut-off of 2), had acceptable sensitivity and specificity for high-risk tobacco (0.90 and 0.77) and alcohol (0.87 and 0.80) use. For illicit drugs, sensitivities were > 0.82 and specificities > 0.92. The TAPS (at a cut-off of 1) had good sensitivity and specificity for moderate-risk tobacco use (0.83 and 0.97) and alcohol (0.83 and 0.74). Among illicit drugs, sensitivity was acceptable for moderate-risk of marijuana (0.71), while it was low for all other illicit drugs and non-medical use of prescription medications. Specificities were 0.97 or higher for all illicit drugs and prescription medications. Conclusions: The TAPS Tool identified adult primary care patients with high-risk ASSIST scores for all substances as well moderate-risk users of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, although it did not perform well in identifying patients with moderate-risk use of other drugs or non-medical use of prescription medications. The advantages of the TAPS Tool over the ASSIST are its more limited number of items and focus solely on substance use in the past 3. months.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 7 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Primary care
  • Substance abuse assessment
  • Substance abuse screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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