Could “White-Coat Effect” Cut Drug Abuse, Drinking?


Seventeen states have federally funded drug-and-alcohol-screening programs in place at major trauma centers. Newsweek reports that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is trying to take the idea to general practitioners’ offices nationwide. “Most people who have a problem with drinking are right under the radar, and they’re not seeing specialists. Family doctors could find them,” says Prof. Larry Gentilello of the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical School.

Gentilello says the technique can cut problem drinking and drug abuse by half. “We give the patients explicit feedback, but we ultimately tell them the choice is theirs,” he says. “A more confrontational approach only makes them more resistant.” Patients trust doctors about drugs because they trust them on other matters–the “white-coat effect.”


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