A survey among German medical students investigated whether future physicians in Germany received adequate training to treat various diseases during undergraduate education. The main conclusion was that German medical students did learn how to treat hypertension and diabetes; however, treatment of alcohol use disorders and smoking was hardly covered during undergraduate study. The survey was co-ordinated at Göttingen University (Germany); various researchers from Charité – University Medical Centre, Hamburg Medical School as well as the University of Birmingham and University College London contributed to the paper published online in Addiction today.
A total of almost 20,000 medical students were surveyed regarding their preparation for clinical practice. Thus, the sample comprised half of all medical students enrolled at 27 medical schools participating in the study. Only one in five fifth-year students thought they knew how to treat alcohol use disorders and smoking, and only 7% of students felt they were able to counsel a smoker willing to quit. Over half of fifth-year students wished to learn more about these addictive disorders during undergraduate medical education.
The health consequences of problem drinking and smoking are at least as devastating as the consequences of general medical disorders with similar prevalence such as hypertension and diabetes. In Germany, one in ten hospital admissions is accounted for by alcohol use or smoking. Problem drinking affects 5% of the population and shortens life-expectancy by approximately 23 years. At least one in two smokers dies from smoking-related disease, totalling 140,000 preventable deaths in Germany each year. The economic cost to society caused by problem drinking and smoking is estimated to exceed 40 billion Euros annually.
Study coordinator Dr Tobias Raupach (University Medical Centre Göttingen and University College London) said, “Physicians tend to focus on prescribing medication and carrying out diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. As a consequence, the identification and in-depth discussion of risk factors receives less attention. Yet, communication is at the heart of treating addictive disorders. Thus, the acquisition of communication skills required to help problem drinkers and smokers should be promoted during undergraduate medical education.”
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Strobel L., Schneider N.K., Krampe H., Beißbarth T., Pukrops T., Anders S., West R., Aveyard P., and Raupach T. German medical students lack knowledge of how to treat smoking and problem drinking. Addiction, 107: doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03907.x
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Addiction (www.addictionjournal.org) is a monthly international scientific journal publishing more than 2000 pages every year. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the top journal in the field of substance abuse and is number one in the 2010 ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking in the Substance Abuse Category. Addiction publishes peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs and tobacco, bringing together research conducted within many different disciplines, as well as editorials and other debate pieces.