Change in Medical Student Attitudes Toward Patients with Substance Use Disorders After Course Exposure

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Objective: Negative physician attitudes toward patients with substance use disorders (SUD) pose a significant barrier to treatment. This study tests the overall and intra-individual change in attitudes of second year medical students after exposure to a 15 hour SUD course. Methods: Two cohorts of second year medical students (2014 and 2015) responded to an anonymous 13-item previously published survey exploring personal views regarding patients with SUD using a four-point Likert scale. Students were surveyed one day before and up to one month after course completion. Survey items were grouped into the following categories: treatment optimism/confidence in intervention, moralism, and stereotyping. The Wilcoxon nonparametric signed-rank test (α=0.05) was used to compare the pre- and post- survey responses. Results: In 2014 and 2015 respectively, 118 and 120 students participated in the SUD course with pre- and post-response rates of 89.0% and 75.4% in 2014 and 95.8% and 97.5% in 2015. Of the 13 survey questions, paired responses to eight questions showed a statistically significant positive change in attitudes with a medium (d = 0.5) to large effect size (d = 0.8). Items focused on treatment optimism and confidence in treatment intervention reflected a positive attitude change, as did items associated with stereotyping and moralism. Conclusions: These results support the hypothesis that exposure to a course on SUD was associated with positive change in medical students’ attitudes toward patients with SUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-287
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Attitude of health personnel
  • Medical education
  • Substance-related disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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