How much are medical students taught about substance abuse and addiction? Would young clinicians be able to tell if a patient was at risk for addiction? Would a primary care doctor be able to tell if presenting symptoms are related to a substance abuse problem? Unfortunately, medical school curricula and commitment to the subject of addiction varies widely.
To improve drug abuse and addiction training of future physicians, NIDA recently unveiled three new teaching resources through NIDAMED’s Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoEs), complementing those launched in 2009. The new teaching tools include:
- An objective structured clinical exam (OSCE) from Boston University School of Medicine on opioid risk management, which covers how to initiate and manage long-term opioid pain therapy in patients with chronic pain, and how to discuss the risks and benefits of opioids with patients
- A lecture presentation from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences on how to talk to patients about sensitive subjects, including drug/alcohol use and abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual history/concerns
- A methamphetamine lecture and a design for a clinical interclerkship for third-year medical students, developed by Creighton University, that introduces learners to methamphetamine abuse and dependence, including its mechanism of action, short- and long-term effects, and treatment
The 10 NIDA CoE curriculum resources are offered in multiple formats, including a Web module, an OSCE, an interclerkship, problem and case-based studies, lectures, and a faculty workshop—all of which can be incorporated into existing medical curricula.
Primary care physicians are in a unique position to identify substance abuse problems early. Research shows that screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment by clinicians in general medical settings can promote significant reductions in alcohol and tobacco use. And a growing body of evidence suggests benefits for illicit and non-medical prescription drug use as well.
However, many patients do not discuss their drug use with their physicians and sadly, only a fraction of people who need addiction treatment receive it each year. The NIDAMED program offers physicians and other healthcare providers evidence-based tools to enable them to be the first line of defense against substance abuse and addiction and to increase awareness of the likely impact of substance abuse on a patient's overall health.