Primary Care Physicians and Clinicians Gain Expertise at Fundamentals Course

Attendees were grouped at round tables to improve discussion Thursday during the Fundamentals Course.

Attendees were grouped at round tables to improve discussion Thursday during “The Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine” course.

Primary care professionals gained a wealth of education Thursday during “The Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine” course. The case-based program yielded guidance for how to provide the most effective prevention strategies and treatment of patients at risk for substance use disorders.

Expanding the role of primary care physicians and clinicians in treating addiction has gained interest, in part, because of the comorbidities among substance abuse patients.

Peter Selby,MBBS, FCFP, DABAM, course chair and curriculum director, noted that primary care professionals often treat the consequences of the substance use—high blood pressure, falls, family problems, and recurrent symptoms—but not the underlying cause.

“Our goal was to help attendees become much more confident in how they handle these patients coming into their clinics. Now they can actually treat the root causes and have patients who are satisfied, as well as improve the quality of care that they provide,” said Dr. Selby, Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Psychiatry, Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, Ontario.

The daylong course featured an interactive format, with facilitators leading energetic roundtable discussions. Sessions were heavily focused on active learning, such as skills demonstration and building, and less on lecturing. Audience-response devices were used throughout the day to challenge attendees to test their new knowledge.

“We developed the course in a way where participants not only learned through thinking, but they learned through doing,” Dr. Selby said.

Speakers discussed clinical manifestations of the neurobiology of addictions; an introduction to addictive disorders; identifying unhealthy substance use; screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment; motivational interviewing; diagnosing substance use disorders and developing an appropriate treatment plan; and treating substance use disorders with medication and counseling.

Planners looked to attendee feedback from 2014 to make course improvements, including revamping the medication prescribing section and adding information about leading 12-step meetings.

“We designed the course in such a way that experts also could take this course and run with it. By that I mean, it’s portable, and the sessions can be led as modules in a single day or over several days by an expert facilitator,” Dr. Selby said.

He advised ASAM members to take the lead in identifying teaching opportunities in their communities and regions.

“Being an addiction medicine specialist or becoming certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine means you’re not just a medical expert. You’re also a communicator and a capacity builder in your community,” he said. “You have a bigger role, and ASAM is developing the resources for you to be able to have an impact. Not everyone in your community is going to be able to come to the Annual Conference, but you certainly can take the knowledge to where they are.”