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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 May 2007, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Call to boost drug abuse training
Drinking
Alcohol is responsible for a quarter of hospital admissions
Doctors must be given better training in how to care for patients who abuse alcohol, smoking and drugs, experts say.

Medical students are taught about substance abuse, but the International Centre for Drugs Policy said training was "patchy and uncoordinated".

The group has issued guidance to all 32 UK medical schools to improve training.

The move has been backed by the government and General Medical Council, which is responsible for training.

The guidance sets standards and criteria for training on the available treatment, assessment of patients, types of disease, and addiction and public health implications.

The misuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco is one of the biggest health challenges today
Professor Hamid Ghodse, of the International Centre for Drugs Policy

The group said all doctors, and GPs in particular, had a key role in helping people recognise problems and seek help.

Alcohol is responsible for up to a quarter of hospital admissions and over two-thirds of A&E attendances, costing the NHS up to 1.7bn.

The researchers said the demands on the health service had been rising alongside increased consumption of alcohol and wider availability of drugs.

They said the average GP can expect to have 350 heavy drinkers among their patients, while one in 12 people will have tried illegal drugs at some point in the last year and a third will be smokers.

Professor Hamid Ghodse, director of the International Centre for Drugs Policy, based at St George's University of London, said: "The misuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco is one of the biggest health challenges today.

"It impacts not just on the health but also the wider lives of those using these substances, their families, their colleagues and the wider society.

"Those who misuse substances will inevitably, at some stage, be seen by doctors, who therefore have a vital role to play in recognising substance misuse and in assessing and managing the problems associated with this."

Call

The call was backed by the government, which commissioned the report.

England's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said: "The government has improved and co-ordinated its approach to these problems and much good work is being done by our health services.

"But this document is an important and positive contribution to support medical schools and to help them delivering a strong and co-ordinated approach to substance misuse within their curricula."

GMC president Sir Graeme Catto said he recognised substance abuse training needed to be improved and the guidance met a "clear and pressing need".

"It should be mandatory reading for all with an interest in medical education."




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