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Elwy AR, Horton NJ, Saitz R. Physicians' attitudes toward unhealthy alcohol use and self-efficacy for screening and counseling as predictors of their counseling and primary care patients' drinking outcomes. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy. 2013 May 30; 8(1):17.
OBJECTIVE: Patients' unhealthy alcohol use is often undetected in primary care. Our objective was to examine whether physicians' attitudes and their perceived self-efficacy for screening and counseling patients is associated with physicians' counseling of patients with unhealthy alcohol use, and patients' subsequent drinking. METHODS: This study is a prospective cohort study (nested within a randomized trial) involving 41 primary care physicians and 301 of their patients, all of whom had unhealthy alcohol use. Independent variables were physicians' attitudes toward unhealthy substance use and self-efficacy for screening and counseling. Outcomes were patients' reports of physicians' counseling about unhealthy alcohol use immediately after a physician visit, and patients' drinking six months later. RESULTS: Neither physicians' attitudes nor self-efficacy had any impact on physicians' counseling, but greater perceived self-efficacy in screening, assessing and intervening with patients was associated with more drinking by patients six months later. CONCLUSIONS: Future research needs to further explore the relationship between physicians' attitudes towards unhealthy alcohol use, their self-efficacy for screening and counseling and patients' drinking outcomes, given our unexpected findings.