Screening and intervention for alcohol and illicit drug abuse: A survey of internal medicine housestaff

Erik W. Gunderson, Frances R. Levin, Lawrence Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This study attempts to determine how internal medicine housestaff screen and intervene for problematic alcohol and illicit drug use, as well as identify factors correlating with favorable practices. A cross-sectional survey was administered to 93 medical housestaff. Of 64 (69%) respondents, 94% reported routinely screening new patients for alcohol or illicit drug use, while only 52% routinely quantified alcohol consumption and 28% routinely used a screening instrument. Housestaff were unfamiliar with national guidelines and felt unprepared to diagnose substance use disorders, particularly prescription drug abuse. Most routinely counseled patients with alcohol (89%) or illicit-drug problems (91%), although only a third of these patients were referred for formal treatment. More thorough screening practices were associated with greater treatment optimism, while favorable referral practices were associated with greater optimism about 12-step program benefit and difficulty with management. These findings suggest areas to be addressed in residency curricula on substance abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Addictive Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Medical education
  • Resident physicians
  • Screening
  • Substance abuse
  • Treatment


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