The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has released The Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol (HPCR) to help healthcare professionals provide evidence-based care for people who drink alcohol. Created with busy clinicians in mind, the HPCR provides concise, thorough information designed to help them integrate alcohol care into their practice.
Healthcare professionals can earn free continuing education (CME/CE) credits for completing HPCR articles.
Alcohol contributes to more than 200 health conditions and nearly 100,000 deaths in the United States each year—with upward trends in both deaths and alcohol-related consequences seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, alcohol-related risks often go unaddressed in healthcare settings. Although many healthcare professionals ask patients about their drinking, few use validated screening tools or follow up with an assessment and brief intervention, and some may not be aware of evidence-based treatment options. Moreover, less than 10 percent of people ages 18 and older who had alcohol use disorder (AUD) received any treatment in the past year, and less than 2 percent receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved AUD medications.
“Our hope is that the HPCR will become a one-stop center to empower healthcare professionals to provide evidence-based alcohol-related care,” says NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D.
Healthcare professionals are in a prime position to make a difference for their patients with alcohol-related problems. By routinely offering alcohol screening and followup during physicals or discussions about health conditions related to—and likely worsened by—alcohol, healthcare professionals can help patients to reduce their alcohol intake when needed.
What the HPCR Provides
“We want healthcare professionals to know three things about evidence-based alcohol care: that it is important, that they can do it, and that it’s easy,” says Raye Litten, Ph.D. Dr. Litten is a co-developer of the HPCR and the Director of the NIAAA Division of Treatment and Recovery. “They can quickly screen, provide a diagnosis, give advice, prescribe FDA-approved medications, and give referrals to a specialist if the case is severe.”
The HPCR is built around 14 user-friendly, practical overview articles designed to address common barriers to 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 and easily provide a definitive picture of drinking levels and, in those who drink heavily, any AUD symptoms
- Clarity about what constitutes heavy drinking, AUD severity levels, and recovery to build confidence in providing brief advice to patients and collaborating on their plans for a healthier future
- Information about the medical complications produced by alcohol misuse and the interactions of alcohol with other drugs and medications
- Steps to reduce stigma surrounding alcohol-related problems and encourage greater patient acceptance of alcohol treatment when needed
Five different types of healthcare professionals—physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, and pharmacists—can earn more than 10 hours of free CME/CE credit from the HPCR.
“The option of receiving continuing education credits supports deeper engagement with the content, and we hope this promotes enduring changes not only in awareness but also in practice,” says Laura Kwako, Ph.D. Dr. Kwako is program director of NIAAA’s health services portfolio and a
co-developer of the HPCR.
In addition to the 14 overview articles, the HPCR offers helpful links for clinical practice from professional organizations as well as deeper dives into emerging alcohol research topics via videos and review articles by NIAAA staff and grantees.
How the HPCR Was Developed
The HPCR was developed with the help of more than 70 contributors—including physicians, clinical psychologists, and basic and clinical alcohol researchers—who served as writers for full articles, content contributors to subsections, reviewers, and editorial staff. These contributors included both NIAAA staff and outside experts.
Throughout the HPCR’s development, NIAAA focused on optimizing the usability of the materials for their target audience of healthcare professionals. Through rigorous focus testing with healthcare professionals, the editorial team confirmed the need for easily digestible information about alcohol’s effects on health and the value of CME/CE credits. The team also reinforced ways to surmount barriers to the delivery of evidence-based alcohol care across the 14 articles.
To maximize the awareness and use of the HPCR by its target audience, NIAAA is actively sharing this valuable new tool with healthcare professionals through social media, professional societies, healthcare plans, and more.
White, A.M.; Castle, I.P.; Powell, P.A.; Hingson, R.W.; and Koob, G.F. Alcohol-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA 327(17):1704–1706, 2022. PMID: 35302593
Chatterton, B.; Agnoli, A.; Schwarz, E.B.; and Fenton, J.J. Alcohol screening during US primary care visits, 2014–2016. Journal of General Internal Medicine. In press. PMID: 35048299
McKnight-Eily, L.R.; Okoro, C.A.; Turay, K.; Acero, C.; and Hungerford, D. Screening for alcohol use and brief counseling of adults ─ 13 states and the District of Columbia, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 69(10):265–270, 2020. PMID: 32163383
Population prevalence estimates (%) are weighted by the person-level analysis weight and derived from the data set, defining “any treatment” as treatment or counseling designed to help reduce or stop alcohol use, including detoxification and any other treatment for medical problems associated with alcohol use, as well as defining AUD as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH-2019-DS0001). Public data set. https://www.datafiles.samhsa.gov/dataset/national-survey-drug-use-and-health-2019-nsduh-2019-ds0001. Accessed December 8, 2020.
Han, B.; Jones, C.M.; Einstein, E.B.; Powell, P.A.; and Compton, W.M. Use of medications for alcohol use disorder in the US: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. JAMA Psychiatry 78(8):922–924, 2021. PMID: 34132744
This article first appeared in NIAAA Spectrum.
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