Substance Use Disorders in Primary Care

This course has been developed for implementation and use by the majority world and in low-resource settings, and provides an introduction to 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, that may reduce the prevalence and the health effects of substance use disorders. All components of this training (like all training) are free, including registration, learning, testing, and a certificate of completion.

The course consists of 6 modules to be completed through online study and peer activities. 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 best practices for the management of substance use disorders in primary care
  • an introduction to the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) Package
  • a few key tips for monitoring and follow-up care for those suffering from substance use disorders, with a special emphasis on common co-morbidities
  • strategies to communicate with people seeking care and their families and caregivers

Evaluation consists of a practice quiz in each module, completion of two peer activities, and a final exam. In order to take the final exam, you will need to complete two peer activities. A certificate will be issued if the final exam is passed with a minimum score of 70 percent. You will also have an opportunity to provide feedback on the course to help us make the learning experience even better. We will give you all the results of your assessments, such as your final exam 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 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), and 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 co-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 also 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, 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 26 hours at an average reading rate of 144 words/minute; in addition, there are required activities.

This course was created in 2012 for a global audience and will be updated in 2021 with modules that include information on pharmacotherapy, opioids, and other topics.