Initiative Will Help Doctors Screen Patients for Drug Abuse

A new initiative from the National Institute on Drug Abuse named NIDAMED will be unveiled April 20. The Physicians' Outreach Initiative contains tools and resources to help medical professionals screen their patients for substance use.

"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. A growing body of literature also suggests potential reductions in illegal and nonmedical prescription drug use," according to the agency, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDAMED's tools include an online screening tool and a quick reference guide.

NIDA estimates 20 million Americans ages 12 and older (8 percent of the population) were current (past month) users of illegal drugs in 2007. Their drug use can play a role in the cause and progression of many medical disorders, but many patients don't discuss their drug use with their physicians, and only a fraction of individuals who need addiction treatment receive it. NIDAMED will help doctors "be the first line of defense against substance abuse and addiction," NIDA says.

NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow; Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, M.D., MPH, the acting U.S. surgeon general; and Michael Maves, M.D., MBA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Medical Association, are among the officials scheduled to announce the initiative's debut at 10 a.m. Eastern time April 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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