Primary care clinicians play a vital role in the identification and treatment of patients with alcohol use disorders; however, there are times-particularly for patients with alcohol dependence-when a referral to specialty care is appropriate; in these situations, the primary care clinician's role in helping a patient find the best treatment is no less essential. These types of referrals should be like any other referrals to specialists: Primary care practitioners should be as familiar with what happens to their patients as when they refer them to a cardiologist. Unfortunately, primary care clinicians often have little knowledge of or familiarity with the available resources. This is partly because they have little (if any) exposure to these types of services during their training. It is also because these services are generally provided in locations and by institutions that are separate from mainstream medical care. The development of formal linkages between primary care and addiction treatment, or integrated treatment programs can help overcome these barriers.
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