A postal questionnaire sent to all psychiatrists working in four NHS trusts in and around Birmingham was used to survey the number of new cases of drug and alcohol misuse identified in the previous month and the degree of postgraduate training in the management of such cases. Attitudes and beliefs about substance misuse problems were also elicited.
A response rate of 70% was achieved across six sub-specialities in psychiatry and four levels of training. Of the 143 respondents, over half had identified at least one new case of alcohol (61%) or drug misuse (55%) in the previous month. Approximately half of the sample admitted to having received no training in management of substance misuse cases in the previous five years (45% alcohol 50% drugs). There was general agreement about the potential management role of the doctor in the field, but less consensus on whether the clinician had a responsibility to intervene in such cases. A clear discrepancy was demonstrated between psychiatrists' perceptions of the evidence supporting various treatments and the actual evidence base.
The study highlights the pressing need for training psychiatrists at all levels and in all sub-specialities in the management of substance misuse.
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