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Experts Call for Better Addiction Medicine Education for Physicians


Many doctors fail to diagnose and treat substance use disorders, in part because they have not been educated about addiction medicine, according to three experts. They call for better training in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

A number of diseases are caused by substance use disorders, and hospitals are “clogged” with patients suffering from these illnesses, write Dr. Evan Wood of the University of British Columbia, Dr. Jeffrey H. Samet, President of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), and Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The experts write that new therapies and behavioral interventions have been developed for a number of addictions, Newswise reports. “Despite the availability of these evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies, only a small fraction of individuals receive prevention or treatment consistent with scientific knowledge about what works,” Dr. Samet said.

“There is a remarkable gap between the science of addiction medicine and the care that patients actually receive,” Dr. Wood said. “Ultimately, this stems from the fact that investments in research have not been coupled with strategies to adequately train physicians to deliver evidence-based care.” He noted that only about 10 percent of people with an alcohol addiction receive recommended care. Most treatment for addiction in the United States and Canada is provided by layperons, the article notes.

ABAM has accredited 18 addiction medicine fellowship programs across the country. Doctors who complete one of these fellowships are eligible to sit for the ABAM exam to become certified in addiction medicine.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of rehabcenternet
    rehabcenternet / October 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    It is tough for physicians to be trained in every situation. Many also seem to be poorly trained in mental health and nutrition. There is just too much to know. More specialist are needed I suppose.

  2. Skip Sviokla MD ABAM / October 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I have had the privilege of presenting at the orientation of interns, residents and fellows each June/July at Rhode Island Hospital for the past 6 years. My horror story of trying to control my substance use which persisted into my 50′s always seems to capture young docs attention-whether they can see seeds of me in themselves or not. Young,eager to learn physicians will not resist further education in this killer disease. Skip Sviokla MD ABAM
    (author- From Harvard to Hell and Back)

    • Judy Moffitt / July 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Wow! Thank you so much for that post. I am working with a committee in upstate NY to address addiction issues within our communities. Your story is what I believe will help this movement more than most other stories. Please keep up the good work! If you are ever in upstate NY we would love to have you speak at one of our forums. We are called Hometown vs Heroin and Addiction and you can find us on FaceBook.
      Thank you!

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