Purpose: To prepare to develop a medical school curriculum on substance abuse disorders (SADs), the authors conducted a review of the quality of the sparse published literature. Method: The authors searched MEDLINE (1950 through December 2008) using OVID, PsycINFO, and PubMed to identify all studies of SAD interventions targeted toward undergraduate medical students. Of the 1,084 studies identified initially, 31 reported sufficient data to allow the authors to evaluate quality using Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI) scores. The authors also determined the impact of the studies by considering three-year citation rate and journal impact factor. A detailed review of the literature provided data on contact hours and intervention content. Results: The three-rater intraclass correlation coefficient for total MERSQI score was 0.82 (95% confidence interval: 0.70-0.90). The mean MERSQI score was 10.42 of a possible 18 (SD 2.59; range: 6.33-14.83). MERSQI scores were higher for more recently published studies and correlated with three-year citation rate but not impact factor. The mean contact time for 26 studies was 29.25 hours (range: 0.83-200 hours). Conclusions: The literature provides a variety of educational methods to train medical students in SAD detection and intervention skills. This literature is of variable quality and provides limited guidance for development of curricula and medical education policy. Better methods of curriculum evaluation and publication guidelines would help ensure that this literature has a positive impact on educational practice and public health.
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