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Vol. LXI, No. 10
May 15, 2009

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NIDA Launches Drug Use Screening Tools For Physicians

Sen. Carl Levin NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow

Sen. Carl Levin (l) of Michigan, a longtime advocate of addiction treatment, attended the recent press conference. NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow (r), who is holding a NIDAMED patient postcard, also spoke at the event.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently unveiled its first comprehensive physicians’ outreach initiative, NIDAMED, which gives medical professionals tools and resources to screen their patients for tobacco, alcohol, illicit and nonmedical prescription drug use.

NIDAMED resources include an online screening tool, a companion quick reference guide and a resource guide for clinicians. The initiative stresses the importance of the patient-doctor relationship in identifying unhealthy behaviors before they evolve into life-threatening conditions.

The NIDAMED tools—targeting primary care clinicians—were launched at a news conference at the National Press Club.

“Many patients do not discuss their drug use with their physicians, and do not receive treatment even when their drug abuse escalates,” said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow. “NIDA-MED enables physicians to be the first line of defense against substance abuse and addiction and to increase awareness of the impact of substance use on a patient’s overall health.”

In 2007, an estimated 19.9 million Americans ages 12 or older (around 8 percent of the population) were current (past month) users of illegal drugs—nearly 1 in 5 of those 18 to 25 years old—and many more are current tobacco or binge alcohol users. The consequences of this drug use can be far-reaching, playing a role in the cause and progression of many medical disorders, including addiction. Yet only a fraction of people who need addiction treatment receive it.

“I have long worked with NIDA to increase access to effective treatment in the battle against addiction,” said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who attended the press conference. “By encouraging physicians to consult with, screen and refer their patients who are in need of treatment, the NIDAMED initiative is a critical step towards achieving that goal.”

The NIDAMED tools were developed because doctors are in a unique position to discuss drug-taking behaviors with their patients before they lead to serious medical problems. Research shows that screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment by clinicians in general medical settings can promote significant reductions in alcohol and tobacco use. NIHRecord Icon

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