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Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies

PLNDP Medical Student Associate UPDATE
May 1999

Dear Medical Student Associate,

Thank you for signing up to be a Medical Student Associate of the PLNDP. The response to our initial mailing has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic and we have been working hard to develop resources for your use. One of the earliest and most important goals of the PLNDP was to empower a group of students to become actively involved in impacting and changing our national drug policy. The hope was that such change would be motivated by education. Almost two years after its founding, the PLNDP has made great progress in raising public awareness and has presented two major research reports, “Addiction and Addiction Treatment” and “Health, Addiction Treatment, and the Criminal Justice System.

Many of you have indicated a strong interest in receiving materials to educate yourself and your classmates about substance abuse issues. It would be helpful to get your input into the types of resources which are best suited for this task. You can send us your suggestions and requests via the web by clicking on the “Feedback” button on the Medical Student Associates homepage or by contacting our office directly.

Please send any materials you already have to the Project Office–we would like to post them on the web so that other Medical Student Associates can access them.  Descriptions of the substance abuse curriculum at your medical school, scientific or policy articles, editorials, or sample treatment and prevention programs, for example, would be helpful resources for others.  Updated information and materials such as these will be posted on the Medical Student Associate homepage as they become available. Also, you can use the “Discussion Forum” on the website to directly communicate with other Medical Student Associates from across the country.

For the moment, we have some preliminary suggestions on how you can facilitate the PLNDP’s efforts:

  • Encourage your classmates to get involved.  Medical students anywhere in the United States are welcome to become Medical Student Associates of the PLNDP. Your interested colleagues can sign up via the web or by calling 401-444-1821.
  • Start a student organization at your school or in your city focused around a particular problem, such as meeting the needs of underserved populations, or activity, like volunteering at a treatment center.
  • Invite speakers to deliver a talk at your medical school or encourage discussion about substance abuse issues. Since there are 6,000 Physician Associates of the PLNDP, we can help provide possible names for speakers or topics for discussion.
  • Write educational articles or petitions for local or national student organizations, such as the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

Your involvement in our efforts is vital for impacting both local communities and national policy. Please contact the Project Office if we can assist you in any way and we will do our best to provide you with the resources you need.

Please take a moment to review the current news from the Project Office, including updates on the second PLNDP videotape report, the PLNDP Action Kit, our Medical Student Survey, and a recent report published by the RAND Corporation. To ensure that you continue to receive future updates and materials, please inform the PLNDP of any changes in your contact information.  Call 401-444-1821, email , or mail your changes to the Project Office.


David C. Lewis, M.D.
Project Director

Current News from the Project Office

PLNDP Action Kit

In line with our education goals, the Project Office has created a PLNDP Action Kit. This kit contains:

  • copies of major editorials written and published by PLNDP  members to raise public awareness about the group’s activities;
  • annotated graphics from both research reports; and
  • a set of teaching slides summarizing the goals of the PLNDP, its membership, and the primary findings of the research reports.

This kit includes materials to educate yourself and others about the PLNDP and its activities. All of the Action Kit graphics and materials can currently be viewed on the web.

If you are interested in using selected slides from the PLNDP Action Kit for presentations, please contact Kathryn Cates-Wessel at 401-444-1816 or by email at .

RAND Report

A recent report by the RAND Corporation, a California think tank, concluded that the annual cost for large corporations and HMOs to provide complete substance abuse benefits would be about $5 per employee. Such benefits would accord substance abuse “parity” with other medical treatment and prevention programs already covered by these companies. Parity is of major importance to the PLNDP for its cost-effectiveness in both human and economic terms. The abstract of the RAND report is below and the entire article will be sent to you soon. The enclosed PLNDP “parity fact sheet” briefly explains the concept of parity.

Sturm, Roland, et al. How Expensive are Unlimited Substance Abuse Benefits Under Managed Care? The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research 26(2): 203; 1999. ABSTRACT

Substance abuse care has been excluded from recent federal and state legislation mandating equal benefits for mental health (MH) and medical care (“parity”), largely because of cost concerns. This paper studies how many patients are affected by substance abuse coverage limits and the likely implications of limits on insurance payments, using 1996/97 claims from 25 managed care plans with unlimited substance abuse (SA) benefits. The low coverage limits currently in existence leave some patients without insurance coverage for a large part of their treatment. Changing even stringent limits on annual SA benefits has a small absolute effect on overall insurance costs under managed care, even though a large percentage of substance abuse patients are affected. Removing an annual limit of $10,000 per year on substance abuse care is estimated to increase insurance payments by about 6 cents per member per year, removing a limit of $1,000 increases payments by about 3.40. As long as care is comprehensively managed, “parity” for substance abuse in employer-sponsored health plans is not very costly.

Videotape Reports

The first PLNDP videotape report, Drug Addiction: The Promise of Treatment, has been very well-received. We have distributed it to hundreds of PLNDP Physician Associates nationwide and thousands of individuals in various fields who are using the video to educate their peers and colleagues. The feedback has been very positive, especially since so many different groups—healthcare educators, practicing physicians, criminal justice professionals, judges—have viewed the video and continue to share its message with others. For a complimentary copy of the video, please complete the form on our webpage or in the enclosed brochure.

From the PLNDP’s second research report, “Health, Addiction Treatment, and the Criminal Justice System,” a new videotape report, entitled Trial, Treatment, and Transformation, was generated and has just been released.  This video presents evidence on the effectiveness of treatment programs as compared to incarceration and includes comments from a number of experts in the field. In addition, this video features the story of two successful drug court graduates; we hope that this humanistic element will help spark discussions about addiction and the criminal justice system among a wide range of audiences. As with the first video, you can request a complimentary copy of the video by filling out the order form on the web or in the enclosed brochure.

Medical Student Survey

In February, 1998, the PLNDP conducted a survey to investigate medical student perceptions about drug treatment and policies. Few past surveys have explored student attitudes concerning patients with addictions. Lack of information is clearly detrimental since students’ beliefs during training can have profound effects on the manner in which they treat future patients. Surveys were sent to first and third year students in a random selection of medical schools, and 1,256 medical students responded, from 15 medical schools in 14 states.

The majority of respondents (76%) reported receiving little or no training in substance abuse issues in medical school, though they also indicated a strong desire for physician involvement in designing drug policy. Analysis of survey data revealed that political orientation was one of the most important factors in determining students’ policy orientations toward supply, demand (use), and harm reduction.

Regardless of political orientation, however, most students were supportive of certain medical approaches to drug policy such as the legalization of medical marijuana and increased research funding. The medical student survey will be published soon and further details about the survey will be posted on the Medical Student Associate homepage.

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