27 March 2023

RACGP: GPs leading a health-based approach on alcohol and other drug use

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the nation’s leaders to view alcohol and other drug use through a health lens and end the pointless “war on drugs” approach.

It comes following the College’s Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) GP medication education team of Dr Shani Macaulay, Dr Paul Grinzi and Dr Simon Slota-Kan publishing a peer-reviewed article in the Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP) outlining how GPs can help patients from all walks of life experiencing alcohol and other drug-related issues.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that momentum was building.

“Across Australia, our leaders are recognising that a heavy-handed criminal justice approach gets us nowhere and that people with alcohol and other drug issues need help and support rather than having the book thrown at them,” she said.

“In recent weeks, the Queensland Government introduced sensible drug law reforms and became the second jurisdiction to give pill testing the green light, while Victoria made its lifesaving medically supervised injecting room an ongoing service. This AJGP paper acts as a guide for whole-of-person care for patients with alcohol and other drug problems. I strongly believe that through a health-first approach, GPs can help patients from all walks of life when all seems lost.”

Lead author Dr Shani Macaulay said the article would prove helpful for many GPs.

“The main objective of our paper is to provide a universally applicable approach for GPs to assist all patients using any substance, which as far as we know hasn’t been done before,” she said.

“We aimed to do this in a manner that allows GPs to implement this information in practical terms. We aim to provide a ‘primary care lens’ to provide healthcare to patients who use alcohol and other drugs.”

Chair of the RACGP’s Addiction Medicine Network Dr Hester Wilson welcomed the article.

“GPs play a vital role caring for people who need help and support rather than scorn and stigmatisation,” she said.

“I couldn’t agree more with the article’s authors when they say that a person’s identity is much more than their alcohol or other drug use. By adopting a respectful, non-judgmental approach that recognises the trauma many people with alcohol and other drug issues have experienced we stand a far greater chance of helping someone turn their life around.”

The AJGP paper includes a practical tool for GPs featuring steps of  “ask”, “assess”, “advise”, “assist” and “arrange”.

The RACGP’s AOD GP Education Program was a resounding success with the program’s final report finding that between 86-99% of GPs across different training pathways saying that the training met their needs. Overall, 3042 GPs completed the training, representing 10% of full-time equivalent GPs in Australia. The RACGP’s education resource library provides access to over 200 alcohol and other drug resources and whole-of-practice resource. The complete library is available here.

Media enquiries

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