A national panel of health experts recommended Tuesday that doctors screen all adult patients for illicit drug use, including improper use of prescription medications.
However, the group, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, stopped short of endorsing such screening for teenagers, a position that puts them at odds with major adolescent-health groups.
The panel, which is appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services but operates independently, said its proposed guidelines are intended to combat alarmingly high rates of substance abuse in the United States. It cited a 2017 federal survey that found 1 in 10 Americans ages 18 and older said they were using illicit drugs or not using medications in ways that doctors intended.
The panel’s call for increased scrutiny by primary care doctors is an effort to slow the deadly use of opioids. The experts hope that if front-line health professionals can detect patients’ abuse of drugs early, they can help contain or reverse the problems.
The guidelines are not binding on doctors, but they carry weight: A provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says that services recommended by the task force must be covered by insurance with minimal or no co-payment.
The guidelines are open for public comment through Sept. 9.
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