Substance use disorders create an enormous burden of medical, behavioral, and social problems and pose a major and costly public health challenge. Despite the high prevalence of substance use and its consequences, physicians often do not recognize these conditions and, as a result, provide inadequate patient care. At the center of this failure is insufficient training for physicians about substance use disorders.
To address this deficit, the Betty Ford Institute convened a meeting of experts who developed the following 5 recommendations focused on improving training in substance abuse in primary care residency programs in internal medicine and family medicine: 1) integrating substance abuse competencies into training, 2) assigning substance abuse teaching the same priority as teaching about other chronic diseases, 3) enhancing faculty development, 4) creating addiction medicine divisions or programs in academic medical centers, and 5) making substance abuse screening and management routine care in new models of primary care practice. This enhanced primary care residency training should represent a major step forward in improving patient care.