Screening tools for cognitive impairment in adults with substance use disorders: a systematic review

Katherine Y. Ko, Nicole Ridley, Shayden D. Bryce, Kelly Allott, Angela Smith, Jody Kamminga*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Objectives: Cognitive impairment is common in individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs), yet no evidence-based guidelines exist regarding the most appropriate screening measure for use in this population. This systematic review aimed to (1) describe different cognitive screening measures used in adults with SUDs, (2) identify substance use populations and contexts these tools are utilised in, (3) review diagnostic accuracy of these screening measures versus an accepted objective reference standard, and (4) evaluate methodology of included studies for risk of bias. Methods: Online databases (PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Embase, and CINAHL) were searched for relevant studies according to pre-determined criteria, and risk of bias and applicability was assessed using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies-2 (QUADAS-2). At each review phase, dual screening, extraction, and quality ratings were performed. Results: Fourteen studies met inclusion, identifying 10 unique cognitive screening tools. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) was the most common, and two novel screening tools (Brief Evaluation of Alcohol-Related Neuropsychological Impairments [BEARNI] and Brief Executive Function Assessment Tool [BEAT]) were specifically developed for use within SUD populations. Twelve studies reported on classification accuracy and relevant psychometric parameters (e.g., sensitivity and specificity). While several tools yielded acceptable to outstanding classification accuracy, there was poor adherence to the Standards for Reporting Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (STARD) across all studies, with high or unclear risk of methodological bias. Conclusions: While some screening tools exhibit promise for use within SUD populations, further evaluation with stronger methodological design and reporting is required. Clinical recommendations and future directions for research are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-24
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2021


    • cognition
    • screening
    • adults
    • substance-related disorders
    • neuropsychology


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