Curricular Threading

Physicians need repeated exposure to high-quality content related to substance use and mental health so that they understand how significantly it affects their patients and are motivated to help them.
All physicians and every other member of the healthcare team must work together to meet the needs of patients experiencing substance use disorders.

One-tenth of American adults suffer from substance use disorders at some point in their lives, yet only one-quarter of such people receive any form of treatment.1 Since these disorders have multiple clinical consequences and affect many body systems, every physician should understand how substance use disorders present and how to address them in their own clinical settings. Embedding information related to substance use disorders throughout required medical curriculum helps ensure that all physicians receive appropriate training.


Patients with substance use disorders are often stigmatized when seeking healthcare services. Providers who are competent and confident in their understanding of substance use disorders and their treatment are more likely to provide appropriate counseling and care to patients.2 We have demonstrated that physicians and other primary care providers exposed to our substance use disorder content experience an increase in their addiction medicine treatment competence and a reduction in their stigmatizing feelings toward patients with substance use disorders.3 When physicians and their teams understand that they can effectively intervene, they are more likely to provide good care.4 


Online learning related to substance use disorders and addiction medicine has been proven effective. Furthermore, medical schools and schools of public health have adopted the materials for their in-person and hybrid programs, creating an even broader reach for these materials both online and offline. 


The Addiction Training for Health Professionals has sponsored a curricular threading initiative in health science courses so that physicians and their teams will be prepared to competently and compassionately treat patients with substance use disorders, using an integrated learning model and with a public health lens. The curricular threading components are meant to enhance knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and skills related to the treatment of substance use disorders for all providers in training and in practice to ensure that all physicians are ready to prevent and treat addictive disease in their patient populations and in the wider community.


  1. 10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives. (2015) US Department of Health and Human Services. Link Here
  2. Frank, E., Elon, L., Naimi, T., Brewer, R. (2008) Alcohol consumption and alcohol counselling behaviour among US medical students: cohort study. British Medical Journal. Link Here
  3. Clair, V., Rossa-Roccor, V., Mokaya, A.G., Mutiso, V., Musau, A., Tele, A., Ndetei, D.M., Frank, E. (2019) Peer- and Mentor-Enhanced Web-Based Training on Substance Use Disorders: A Promising Approach in Low-Resource Settings. Psychiatric Services. Link Here
  4. Weaver, M. et al. (1999) Role of the Primary Care Physician in Problems of Substance Abuse. JAMA Internal Medicine. Link Here


You can read more about the value of curricular threading on our blog.