8 Things Your PCP Should Know About SUDs

created using Minimalist Poster template
published by ireta


8 Things a Primary Care Doctor Should Know

about working with people with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)

1. They (patients with SUDs) are not, by definition, bad people. 

2. The most important thing you can do is ask what, and how much, they are using.

3. Just as there are diagnostic tests for physical illnesses, there are research-based screening and assessment instruments for substance use.

4. Long-term substance use can alter your patient's brain in ways that make it difficult to discontinue use. 

5. Treatment for SUDs is effective.

6. Once a patient screens positive for a substance use problem, a "warm handoff" to a trained clinician is critical. 

7. SUDs are often accompanied by other psychiatric disorders or physical health problems.

8. An SUD is usually a chronic, rather than acute, condition. 

If your patient thinks you will judge her because of her use, she may not share important information

If you are wishy-washy about asking these questions, you communicate that you don't want to know.

Adopt a set of standard screens for alcohol, drug, and tobacco use

Given this, stopping or reducing use is going to require more than willpower

You can be optimistic when faced with a patient with an SUD

If possible, directly introduce your patient to a clinician with the time and training to address an SUD

Now that you know about your patient's substance use, you can determine if it is linked to other conditions 

Your ongoing relationship with your patient makes you the ideal person to monitor substance use and refer to specialty treatment as needed

Special thanks to Elizabeth Wells, PhD, Research Professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work, who originally created this list.   The full list is available at:

Copyright © 2014 Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA)   IRETA adminsters the National SBIRT ATTC, a federally funded program