Drug addiction is often not sufficiently if at all, covered in medical schools’ curriculum, despite being a national major public health issue. Addiction severely affects overall health, puts lives at risk, and results in a wide range of health conditions.
In response to the education gap, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is launching a new program in the US to encourage medical schools to incorporate substance use and abuse into their curricula.
NIDA’s series of teaching tools, disseminated through its Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoE), provides accurate scientific information on substance abuse, addiction, and their consequences. Tools include lectures, case studies, faculty workshops, and a web module. It is designed to fit into any existing curriculum, to ease adoption.
“Our long term goal is for doctors to incorporate screening for drug use into routine practice like they currently screen for other diseases,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow in a statement, “to help patients that are abusing to stop, and to refer more serious cases to specialized treatment.”
Three themes have emerged from the materials: the importance of communication in the doctor-patient relationship, especially with sensitive topics; the recognition that substance abuse may play an integral role in many disorders; and the crucial role physicians play in both identifying substance abuse in patients and reducing the risk of developing an addiction.