Doctors ‘Doing Little’ for Addicted Patients, Study Finds
Many primary care physicians are "doing little" to help their patients with drug problems overcome their addictions, according to a new study in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Tanner, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/22). Researchers surveyed 1,082 physicians and found that 68% "regularly" ask new patients about drug use. About 55% of doctors treating patients with "diagnosed illicit drug abuse" said that they "routinely offer formal treatment referral," but 15% said they "do not intervene" (Friedmann et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, 1/22). Of the physicians who do offer drug addiction intervention, 61% said they suggest 12-step programs to their patients, while only 55% reported "routinely" recommending formal addiction therapy, such as methadone treatment or residential treatment centers (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/22). Researchers found that the likelihood that a physician would recommend treatment depended on several factors, including psychiatry specialty, "confidence" in obtaining the history of drug use, "optimism" about the effectiveness of therapy, concerns about patients' objections and time constraints. Researchers suggested several initiatives to promote physician involvement in patients' drug abuse, including strategies to increase doctors' confidence in managing drug problems, to foster "optimism" concerning the benefits of drug treatment, to "dispel concerns" about patients' "sensitivity" regarding drug abuse and to address "perceived time limitations" (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1/22). In addition, Dr. Peter Friedmann, lead study author and assistant professor of medicine and community health at Brown University, said that medical schools need to offer "better drug-abuse training" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/22). To view the study, go to http://archinte.ama-assn.org/issues/current/rfull/ioi90895.html.