I missed this note on Friday at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has made available some great new curricular resources through their Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoEs) (press release)
“Physicians can be the first line of defense against substance abuse and addiction, but they need the resources and the training,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “Our long term goal is for doctors to incorporate screening for drug use into routine practice like they currently screen for other diseases; to help patients that are abusing to stop; and to refer more serious cases to specialized treatment.”
Three themes have emerged in this first wave of CoE offerings: the importance of communication in the doctor-patient relationship, particularly around sensitive issues; the recognition that substance abuse may play an integral role in many disorders physicians treat, even when not the presenting condition; and the crucial part physicians can play in both identifying substance abuse in their patients and reducing their risk of developing a substance use disorder.
The overall CoE program is here and the listing of universities that developed each module here. I note this because it appears that the development of each resource was the result of a NIDA R25 education grant. If you want to just go for the jugular, the list of modules by topic is here.
I’m not through all of the materials but I’ve got to say that I’ve always been a fan of the problem-based learning approach as opposed to yet another PowerPoint presentation. The case on drug abuse in the physician developed by the University of North Dakota (PDF) is excellent and addresses a critical issue in practitioners impairment, taking the unfortunately common case of an anesthesiologist.
The second half of this document presents an overview of the student-centered, problem-based learning approach as written by Robert E. Waterman and Stewart P. Mennin at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
I’m all for any education that treats substance abuse disorders as a true disease and, as in other NIDA education modules, balances effective pain management while minimizing risk of opioid dependence. Many drugs of abuse come from my field of natural products pharmacology and I have personal experience with how physicians sometimes treat the substance abuser and their family with a lack of compassion.
We as scientists are not immune either and our own tribe has suffered tragic losses due to substance dependence. Despite the fact that we most recently lost and incredibly talented young scientist, I am amazed at some of the heartless, judgmental comments that come out of the mouths (and keyboards) of even people who study drug abuse for a living. Therefore, education on substance abuse as a disease behavior with a significant genetic predisposition is essential in science and medical curricula.
The NIDA curricular resources fill an unmet need in medical education. These curricular resources can be applied not just in primary medical education but in residency training and continuing medical education as well.
Nice to see some grant money well-spent.