Medical students need to understand the role of practicing physicians in substance abuse treatment. In addition they may not be aware of complicated multi-disciplinary treatment issues, the biological and social basis of addictions, and how new treatments are developed then moved into practice. The topic of detection and treatment of opioid addiction is an excellent one to teach these basic skills and convey essential knowledge. By teaching medical students we can impact future physicians before potential negative attitudes regarding substance dependence have developed or solidified.
With research funding from NIDA/NIH, we are developing outlines for a suite of online educational modules addressing these issues. Curriculum development included medical school professionals and substance abuse experts. The prototype module, "Prevalence, Trends and Impact on Health: Opioid Addiction" was pilot tested with 22 medical students in their 2nd through 4th years of study. Pre/post-assessments of knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, and intended behavior showed significant increases following completion of the module. Satisfaction with the module was high and there was an interest in learning more about substance abuse. During the coming year (2008), we will perform a large-scale evaluation of the project using an innovative virtual standardized patient. As the need for physicians to recognize and treat addiction disorders grows, these
online modules hold promise for integrating the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes into the medical school curriculum.