Survey of attitudes among three specialties in a teaching hospital toward alcoholics

J Med Educ. 1987 Jan;62(1):17-24. doi: 10.1097/00001888-198701000-00003.


Although physicians are typically "gatekeepers" for the diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism, a lack of specific alcoholism training and negative attitudes toward alcoholics can establish formidable barriers to recognition and treatment of the condition. In the study reported here, the authors examined differences in attitudes toward and knowledge and treatment of alcoholism among physicians in three specialties. A questionnaire pertaining to alcoholism and alcoholics was mailed to 385 internists, surgeons, and psychiatrists at a teaching hospital. Half received a version concerning male alcoholics, and half received one concerning female alcoholics; the versions were identical except for the gender of the alcoholic referred to in the questionnaire. Fifty-three percent returned the questionnaire, and their responses showed that these physicians viewed male and female alcoholics similarly. Overall, the respondents considered them treatable but maintained negative perceptions of their personalities. The psychiatrists held the most positive views of the treatability of alcoholism and the most negative views of alcoholics' personalities, whereas the surgeons held the most positive views of alcoholics' personalities and the most negative views of treatability. The internists, surgeons, and psychiatrists reported significant differences in the adequacy of their education on alcoholism, in their methods of handling alcoholics, and in their desire to learn about alcoholism. These findings are discussed in terms of continuing education in alcoholism treatment for physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism* / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality