A few hours of extra training can dramatically improve doctors' ability to treat alcohol-dependent patients. A study published today in the open access journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy reveals that patients suffering from alcoholism treated by general practitioners (GPs) who received regular extra training were twice as likely to abstain from drinking alcohol as patients treated by GPs who had only received the basic training given at medical school. These results were only observed in the short-term and none of the patients in the study could abstain from alcohol for a period longer than two months.
Laurent Malet from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and colleagues from other institutions in France studied a group of 24 trained GPs and a comparison group of 24 untrained GPs, and their respective patients diagnosed with alcohol dependency. All GPs had received an average of 10 hours of tutoring on alcohol misuse during or after their studies, but trained GPs were also receiving a few hours of regular training that involved discussing case studies and participating in role-plays. There were 126 patients in the trained GP group and 122 in the comparison group.
Malet et al.'s results show that the average frequency of attempts at abstinence was twice as high in the group treated by trained GPs as in the comparison group. Relapses were more frequent in the group treated by trained GPs, but on average patients in this group spent longer without drinking than patients in the comparison group: they remained abstinent for an average 36% of the 18 month-long study period compared to only 16% for the comparison group. The cumulative number of days the patients spent without drinking was 102.9 days for the group treated by trained GPs and 68.4 days for the comparison group
Impact of practitioner's training in the management of alcohol dependence: a quasi-experimental 18-month follow-up study Laurent Malet, Michel Reynaud, Pierre-michel Llorca and Bruno Falissard Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2006 (in press)
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