AOD training moves online

Matt Woodley

13/05/2020 4:20:37 PM

The RACGP will deliver its Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program online in an effort to reach every corner of Australia during the pandemic.

Pills and alcohol
An increasing number of Australians have turned to alcohol and other drugs for respite from mental health issues during the pandemic.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon believes there has never been a more important time for GPs to help people experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs.
For many, the coronavirus pandemic has led to enforced social isolation, loss of employment and disruption to daily routines such as exercise, along with the fear of infection and potential for personal tragedy. As a result, many Australians are struggling with increased mental health issues and some have turned to alcohol and other drugs for respite.
‘Substance use problems are growing worse during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a range of factors,’ Dr Nespolon said. ‘People are not seeing family and friends as often, or at all, and there is so much uncertainty about what will happen next.
‘It is no surprise we are seeing increases in alcohol and drug use. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand, we need to further improve the skills of GPs to help these people.
‘We can’t control how long this pandemic and resulting social restrictions will last, but we can control our primary care response to it.’
The Essential Skills training component of the program has been developed to help update for GPs who want to improve their approach to conversations about alcohol and other drug use, and is available to all RACGP members through a self-directed e-learning module on gplearning.
Meanwhile, Treatment Skills training will be delivered via ‘AOD live’ online workshops and self-directed e-learning modules.
AOD live video conferences are scheduled to take place between May and November. They will allow participants to listen to presenters, interact with each other and discuss cases in small groups, as well as receive feedback from expert GPs. Alternatively, GPs can complete treatment skills at their own pace through an online self-directed e-learning module on gplearning.
The program is also designed to encourage participation from rural and remote GPs, and assist doctors in treating at-risk groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and LGBTQI individuals.
As such, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Addiction Medicine network Dr Hester Wilson said the program will provide tailored training for doctors working in different communities and settings.
‘Substance use is a complex subject; there is no one-size-fits-all and there are many reasons why people turn to alcohol and other drugs,’ she said.
‘We certainly haven’t forgotten about rural and remote GPs … training GPs in the bush is essential because residents in remote regions of Australia are particularly at risk for drug and alcohol misuse. GPs working in these areas are often isolated and treating patients with complex morbidities.
‘We must ensure they are equipped with the training they need to help their patients. They are often working without real-time support from colleagues or experienced allied health professionals.’
In addition to the alcohol and other drugs training program, Project ECHO provides a further chance for GPs to join a small-group online case discussion series and learn more about treating patients in the current COVID-19 environment. This will also be available to all RACGP members via a series of free weekly online sessions from mid-2020.
Dr Nespolon said GPs are ‘ideally positioned’ to support patients experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs, and that the online resources offer a ‘really exciting opportunity’ for GPs helping people address their substance use problems.
‘People use alcohol and other drugs for a wide variety of reasons, including in response to crises, and most Australians will not become alcohol or drug dependent,’ he said.
‘But for some, their alcohol or drug use is causing harm. For example, the number of Australians who are misusing their prescribed pain medication is on the rise and the COVID-19 pandemic is seeing an increase in problematic alcohol and drug use.
‘When a patient needs help we must ensure GPs are equipped with the skills to help them get on the right path.
‘Doctors already have access to a range of evidence-based resources. However, the gap we have identified is in providing practical ways that GPs can support patients who find it difficult to talk about their alcohol intake, misuse of prescribed medications or other drug use.’
The RACGP has said it will collaborate closely with Primary Health Networks, Local Health Districts and other alcohol and other drug service providers to ensure the promotion of local treatment pathways. There will also be Advanced Skills training available for GPs who will be required to take on a leadership role and share what they have learnt with their practice colleagues.
Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program key objectives:

  • Help GPs talk openly to their patients about alcohol and other drug use
  • Allow GPs to work collaboratively with colleagues to develop a whole-of-practice approach to the prescribing of pharmaceuticals to treat pain, insomnia and anxiety
  • Assist in implementing best practice approaches to safely and effectively support patients presenting with alcohol and other drug issues, to minimise harm and improve health and wellbeing
  • Help GPs learn about effective alcohol and other drug patient assessment, harm minimisation, withdrawal and weaning, as well as pharmacotherapy options (eg methadone treatment) and treatment pathways
Interested GPs can learn more on the RACGP website.
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