Screening for Substance Use Disorders in Primary Care

This course teaches about the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders through online didactics, and provides the student a chance to practice techniques with locally and globally available peers and mentors. All components of this training (like all trainings) are free, including registration, learning, testing, and a certificate of completion.

There are 6 modules to complete through online study, as well as mentored activities and peer activities. All are mandatory and need to be performed satisfactorily to receive a certificate of course completion. These modules provide: a basic introduction to mental health and substance use services; an overview of stigma and how it can be addressed; an introduction to screening for substance use disorders in primary care; additional information on substance use disorders, screening, and intervention; a brief overview of urgent situations; common co-morbidities with substance use disorders; and strategies to communicate with people seeking care and their families and caregivers.

There are practice quizzes in each module, and at the end of the course you will have a final exam and a chance to give your assessment of this training. We will give you all the results of your assessments, such as your final exam, mentored activities, mentored evaluations, and peer activities. We can report your testing information and share your work with anyone (your school, employer, etc.) that you request. We hope this is a wonderful learning experience for you, and the assessment that you provide at the course’s conclusion will help us improve the training for future students.

This course should be used to train about screening and referral of those with substance use issues to professionals with further education in substance use interventions, such as the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Substance Use Disorders in Primary Care training (which provides more detailed information about how to intervene once an alcohol, tobacco, or other substance use problem has been identified).

This course is cosponsored by: the Africa Mental Health Foundation, the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addiction Medicine, and the University of Florida. This course uses competencies adapted from the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP).  The course uses resources from accredited, world-class organizations such as the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the  World Health Organization, and the World Medical Association.  Course developers are: Veronic Clair, MD, MSc, CCFP, FRCPC; Sukhdeep Jassar, MPH; and Abednego Musau, MBChB. Our Advisory Group is: Erica Frank, MD, MPH; Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA; Victoria Mutiso, PhD; David Ndetei, MD, PhD; Scott Teitelbaum, MD; and Randall F. White, MD, FRCPC. We gratefully acknowledge major review and contributions from: Bernice Apondi; Chelsea Hitchen, BA; Sandra W. Kimani, MBChB; Mwiti K. Makathimo, Project Management, MBChB; Aggrey G. Mokaya; Johnston M. Muthoka, BSc (Anatomy), MBChB; and Jackson N. Njoroge, MBChB.


For publications on this course’s efficacy, see “Online Learning Improves Substance Use Care in Kenya: Randomized Control Trial Results and Implications,” (2016), Annals of Global Health,; see also “Peer and Mentored Enhanced Web-Based Training on Substance Use Disorders: A Promising Approach in Low-Resource Settings to Teach Knowledge and Skills and Decrease Stigma,” (2019), Psychiatric Services, In addition, see “Building Public Health Capacity through Online Global Learning,” (2018), Open Praxis,; to see more research related to’s educational model, check out’s publication page.

Approximate time required for the required readings for the course is 24 hours at an average reading rate of 144 words/minute; in addition, there are required activities.

This course was created in 2012 for use in low resource settings and relies on WHO resources and programs for screening and brief interventions based on the ASSIST, as well as the mhGAP.