Objective: To examine Canadian family physicians' attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among their patients.
Design: A self-administered questionnaire mailed to a random sample of 2883 family physicians. The survey was conducted using a modified Dillman method.
Participants: Canadian physicians in active office-based practice during 1989. Sample included certificated and noncertificated members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, as well as non-members of the College.
Main outcome measures: Perceived importance of various health-promotion behaviours; attitudes and beliefs about working with problem drinkers; current knowledge and practices regarding identifying and managing problem drinkers; and demographic characteristics.
Results: Respondents had a strong sense of role legitimacy in working with problem drinkers, but predominantly negative and pessimistic attitudes. Half the respondents felt they had failed in their work with problem drinkers. More physicians agreed on a psychosocial etiology for alcoholism than on a biological origin. Three quarters of respondents said they "almost always" ask patients about quantity and frequency of alcohol use, and just over one third "almost always" ask about problems related to drinking. Data also suggest doctors have relatively few patients with alcohol problems, and they need help in responding to such patients.
Conclusion: Physicians need more training for their role in identifying and managing patients with alcohol problems.