The time is now: Improving substance abuse training in medical schools

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23 Scopus citations


This commentary highlights the growing demand for substance abuse prevention and treatment, summarizes the literature regarding the current insufficiencies in substance abuse training in medical schools, and suggests strategies to address this gap in physician education. The authors describe how the combination of mandated coverage for substance abuse services and expanding treatment needs means that more physicians, regardless of their patient populations, will be faced with addressing the problem of substance use. The authors review the literature on substance abuse training in medical schools, which indicates insufficient exposure to this topic. The authors describe how current substance abuse training at medical schools is focused on transmitting scientific knowledge with relatively little education or training in attitudes and skills central to effective prevention and treatment. Given the gap between clinical need and physician education, the authors suggest several strategies for medical schools to increase training in substance abuse knowledge, attitudes, and skills, which will enhance the practice of evidence-based care. The authors posit that medical curricular reform, combined with initiatives to change clinical culture around substance abuse, will translate into improved rates of screening, shorter overall length of treatment, effective referrals for continued treatment, and increased access to care for individuals who use substances and so reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-460
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Attitudes
  • Medical students
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Education


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