The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States (NIH), has developed a new toolkit to help healthcare professionals address alcohol problems faced by their patients.
The toolkit is called the “Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol“. The resource has 14 user-friendly, practical overviews which are easy to use for busy clinicians. It is designed to increase the knowledge among healthcare professionals on alcohol and its interactions in the clinical setting. The resource will also guide clinicians to overcome known barriers to better care for patients whose alcohol consumption affects their health.
Topics in the resource include:
- Foundational knowledge for understanding alcohol-related problems (4 articles),
- Clinical impacts of alcohol on a broad range of health conditions (4 articles),
- Strategies for prevention and treatment of alcohol problems (5 articles), and
- How to “put it all together” to promote practice change (1 article).
Our hope is that the core resource will become a one-stop center for information and resources to help healthcare professionals provide evidence-based care by understanding that alcohol can exacerbate a broad range of health conditions.
The core resource also equips healthcare professionals to address alcohol misuse,” said Dr. George F. Koob, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), as per News Medical.Dr. George F. Koob, Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
The resource was made with the contributions of over 70 physicians, clinical psychologists, and basic and clinical alcohol researchers. It offers more than 10 hours of free continuing education (CME/CE) credit for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, and pharmacists.
In addition to the 14 articles,
- The “Additional Links for Patient Care” section offers helpful resources for primary care as well as hepatology, emergency care, obstetrics, oncology, pain management, pediatric, and geriatric specialists, therapists, and pharmacists.
- Further reading and viewing of the core resource include review articles on diverse topics from NIAAA’s scientific journal, Alcohol Research: Current Reviews and videos by Dr. Koob and other NIAAA staff and grantees on topics such as the cycle of alcohol addiction, health disparities, and stress and relapse.
The main target group of the Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol
The Core articles are aimed broadly at all practicing healthcare professionals. Much of the practical content is derived from clinical research in adult primary care, yet the strategies can be adapted by other specialties.
The Additional Links for Patient Care section offers helpful resources for primary care as well as hepatology, emergency care, obstetrics, oncology, pain management, pediatric, and gerontology specialists; therapists; and pharmacists.
In addition to professionals in practice, the Core has two other key audiences:
- Instructors in health professional schools will find the Core a valuable resource to integrate into units related to alcohol and health.
- Quality improvement staff in healthcare plans can implement alcohol-related performance measures using the Core as a training component for their clinical staff.
How the Core helps healthcare professionals
The Core was designed to help address common barriers to optimum alcohol-related healthcare by providing:
- Knowledge to fill common gaps in training about addiction, including the neuroscience of addiction, evidence-based AUD behavioral healthcare and medications, and the varied paths to recovery;
- Quick, validated alcohol screening and assessment tools that address time constraints while providing a definitive picture of alcohol use levels and, in those who consume alcohol heavily, any AUD symptoms;
- Clarity about what constitutes heavy alcohol use, AUD severity levels, and recovery to build confidence in providing brief advice to patients and collaborating on their plans for a healthier future; and
- Steps to reduce stigma surrounding alcohol-related problems and encourage greater patient acceptance of alcohol treatment when needed.
Reasons for developing the Core
- Alcohol is a major public health concern. Alcohol consumption contributes to more than 200 diseases or conditions and 99,000 deaths per year in the U.S., making alcohol one of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S.
- Heavy alcohol use is especially risky but even lower levels are linked with health risks including breast cancer.
- Heavy alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD) often go unaddressed. Many healthcare professionals ask patients about their alcohol use, but few use validated screening tools or follow up with an assessment and brief intervention as recommended by the USPSTF.
- Fewer than 2% of people with AUD receive FDA-approved AUD medications, which can be prescribed easily in primary care.
- Healthcare professionals are in a prime position to make a difference. Alcohol screening and brief intervention in primary care can increase patients’ motivation to change their alcohol use, and, in turn, reduce their alcohol intake.
- Many common patient conditions such as hypertension and depression may be caused or worsened by alcohol, and visits for these conditions present key opportunities for alcohol screening.
- Helping a patient with alcohol problems can make a difference not only for the patient, but for a whole family.
- Most patients are open to alcohol screening, and if needed, advice thereafter. Most patients expect, and do not object to, alcohol screening in medical settings, and when needed, are open to advice to cut down or quit alcohol use.
- Most patients who screen positive for heavy alcohol use show some readiness to change, with greater readiness among those with more severe alcohol-related symptoms.