Stigmatization of substance use disorders among internal medicine residents

Ellen C. Meltzer, Alexandra Suppes, Sam Burns, Andrew Shuman, Alex Orfanos, Christopher V. Sturiano, Pamela Charney, Joseph J. Fins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Evidence suggests that some physicians harbor negative attitudes towards patients with substance use disorders (SUDs). The study sought to (1) measure internal medicine residents attitudes towards patients with SUDs and other conditions; (2) determine whether demographic factors influence regard for patients with SUDs; and (3) assess the efficacy of a 10-hour addiction medicine course for improving attitudes among a subset of residents. Methods: A prospective cohort study of 128 internal medicine residents at an academic medical center in New York City. Scores from the validated Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS) were used to assess attitude towards patients with alcoholism, dependence on narcotic pain medication, heartburn, and pneumonia. Demographic variables included gender, postgraduate training year, and prior addiction education. Results: Mean baseline MCRS scores were lower (less regard) for patients with alcoholism (41.4) and dependence on narcotic pain medication (35.3) than for patients with pneumonia (54.5) and heartburn (48.9) (P <.0001). Scores did not differ based upon gender, prior hours of addiction education, or year of training. After the course, MCRS scores marginally increased for patients with alcoholism (mean increased by 0.16, P =.04 [95% confidence interval, CI: 0.004-0.324]) and dependence on narcotic pain medication (mean increased by 0.09, P =.10 [95% CI: 0.02-0.22]). Conclusions: Internal medicine residents demonstrate less regard for patients with SUDs. Participation in a course in addiction medicine was associated with modest attitude improvement; however, other efforts may be necessary to ensure that patients with potentially stigmatized conditions receive optimal care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-362
Number of pages7
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Addiction education
  • alcoholism
  • narcotic pain medication dependence
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine(all)


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