Doctors to get drug, alcohol training

August 05, 1993|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

With surveys showing that doctors often miss signs of substance abuse in their patients, the state medical society announced plans yesterday to educate doctors across Maryland in the care of people who abuse alcohol and drugs.

Officials with the Medical and Chirurgical Society unveiled plans to take a substance abuse course to hospitals, clinics and other health care centers, where they hope to reach as many of the state's 7,000 primary care doctors as possible.

"Unfortunately, the medical school education doesn't address this issue in the depth that it should," Dr. Kevin Ferentz, a family practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said yesterday during a news briefing in Baltimore.

A survey of 1,300 doctors in Baltimore and Cumberland showed that physicians received an average of eight hours instruction in substance abuse during medical school and 11 hours in post-graduate training. Doctors said they could have used three times as much preparation.

The survey, published last year in the Maryland Medical Journal, was done for the state medical society. Other studies published in national medical journals have shown that doctors often fail to recognize an underlying problem of substance abuse in patients complaining about a range of physical and emotional symptoms.

The course is due to begin in the fall. It will vary in length, with the longest version lasting four hours, officials said. Topics will include the diagnosis of substance abuse, treatment options, family involvement and difficulties in getting patients to comply with treatment.

Dr. Joseph Snyder, medical society president, said the statewide program is an extension of a course presented last year to doctors in Baltimore alone. More than 500 city doctors signed up, he said, a response that encouraged the society to refine the program and broaden its reach.

Funding for the statewide program comes from an $82,000 grant from the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. The program is geared for doctors in all the primary care specialties -- internal medicine, general practice, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice and pediatrics.

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