Pharmacy Students' Attitudes about Treating Patients with Alcohol Addiction after Attending a Required Mutual Support Group

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 51 % of adults over 18 years of age are regular drinkers. (1) Although moderate alcohol use may not be harmful, approximately 18 million adults in the United States have alcohol dependence problems and are at an increased risk for organ damage, car crashes, suicides, and homicides. (2) Pharmacists are among the most readily accessible healthcare providers and may be asked to assist patients with alcohol dependence problems, yet many pharmacists are inadequately equipped with the skills necessary to identify and help them. Neither the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education Standards for the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree nor the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Center for the Advancement of Pharmaceutical Education Outcomes include the words, "addict, addiction, or alcohol." (3,4)

The pharmacy education literature focuses on the use or abuse of alcohol and other substances by pharmacy students, and some authors have encouraged the development of college and school policies to address concerns about student alcohol problems. (5-11) However, little has been written about the preparation of pharmacy students to care for patients with alcohol problems. (12,13)

While the pharmacy skills laboratory course within the PharmD curriculum is ideal for many active-learning scenarios, the setting has limitations when addressing alcohol abuse issues. Skills laboratory faculty members may find that role-play or active-learning scenarios fall short when it comes to educating pharmacy students about the devastating effects of addiction. As a result, the coordinator of the Pharmacy Care Laboratory course at the University of Georgia College of pharmacy hypothesized that attendance at 2 open 1 -hour AA meetings would be an effective means of educating students about alcohol abuse issues and significantly impact their attitudes.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a volunteer mutual support Group (14) for men and women who wish to attain and maintain sobriety. (15) The only requirement for members is a desire to stop drinking; no dues or fees are collected. "Open meetings" may be attended by visitors who wish to observe how mutual support groups function. The purpose of this study was to determine by administering the SAAPPQ how attendance at AA meetings changed the attitudes of pharmacy students about caring for those with addictions.

DESIGN

The Pharmacy Care Laboratory course requirement of the skills sequence at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy was 5 semesters. Third-year students on the main campus completed the fifth semester (the timeframe for this study) by registering for 1 of three 2-hour sections. For a class of 100, this further reduced the size to about 33 students per section. Laboratory content was delivered in 2-week modules (a total of 6 times). Students received hospital content one week and community content the next.

The University of Georgia IRB approved this study. All P3 students on the main campus of the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy were required to attend 2 open 1-hour AA meetings in lieu of 1 skills laboratory session for the Pharmacy Care Laboratory course beginning in spring 2009. Before students began attending meetings, the local AA chapter was contacted to clarify that the schedule for local open meetings posted on the AA website was accurate and to verify that pharmacy student attendance in small groups at these meetings was acceptable.

During the course orientation, approximately 30 minutes were spent explaining the AA attendance requirement, the rules of AA, what to expect from the experience, and the restriction to visit open meetings only. A schedule of these meetings and their locations was provided. A summary of the orientation materials and an electronic copy of a reflection form were posted online via the course management system. …