David Oslin, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of VISN 4 Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC). He is also a staff physician and chief of behavioral health at Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Administration Medical Center. He is an active researcher focused on alcohol and drug addiction, addiction treatment, and severe mental illness.
He took some time out of his busy schedule to provide some insight into the practice and treatment of alcoholic patients, considering April is Alcohol Awareness Month.
MDCalc: What are some of the challenges in working with alcoholic patients? Are there any rules you live by when evaluating patients?
David Oslin: Trust but verify. It’s important that patients understand that being honest with their provider will have the best results but I also realize that part of their illness makes honesty and openness difficult.
Challenges are like many chronic debilitating illness. Addiction is life-threatening and not all patients do well with treatment. Like any other illness, we aren’t always successful in helping patients.
Another rule that I keep in mind is to be open to patients who want to try no matter how often they have set backs.
MD: What are the most promising aspects of recent and past alcoholic research? Are there any areas you would like to see more advancement in?
DO: There is a growing understanding of the neuroscience of addiction, and this is beginning to pay off with new medications that are effective in treatment. We also seem to be finally turning the corner in having providers realize that one treatment doesn’t fit all patients and that multiple treatment options are often warranted. This is also where I would like to see more progress.
MD: What advice would you offer busy clinicians on the best way they can (a) screen for alcohol abuse, and (b) help patients who may suffer from alcoholism?
DO: Use self reported but structured assessments such as the AUDIT-C which is only 3 questions. It is very useful in primary care practices or general psychiatry practices.
MD: Other comments? Any words of wisdom when seeing alcoholic or intoxicated patients? What research are you doing currently and what is next in the pipeline for you?
DO: Treatment works!
To view Dr. Oslin’s publications, visit PubMed.