Cover: Drug-related Physician Continuing Medical Education Requirements, 2010-2020

Drug-related Physician Continuing Medical Education Requirements, 2010-2020

Published in: Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment, Volume 161 (June 2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.josat.2024.209356

Posted on May 10, 2024

by Corey S. Davis, Derek H. Carr, Bradley D. Stein


The crisis of drug-related harm in the United States continues to worsen. While prescription-related overdoses have fallen dramatically, they are still far above pre-2010 levels. Physicians can reduce the risk of overdose and other drug-related harms by improving opioid prescribing practices and ensuring that patients are able to easily access medications for substance use disorder treatment. Most physicians received little or no training in those subjects in medical school. It is possible that continuing medical education can improve physician knowledge of appropriate prescribing and substance use disorder treatment and patient outcomes.


Descriptive legal review. Laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were searched for provisions that require all or most physicians to receive either one-time or continuing medical education regarding controlled substance prescribing, pain management, or substance use disorder treatment.


There has been a rapid increase in the number of states with relevant requirements, from three states at the end of 2010 to 42 at the end of 2020. The frequency and duration of required education varied substantially across states. In all states, the number of hours required in relevant topics is a small fraction of overall required continuing education, an average of 1 h per year. Despite recent shifts in the substances driving overdose, most requirements remain focused on opioids.


While most states have now adopted continuing education requirements regarding controlled substance prescribing, pain management, or substance use disorder treatment, these requirements comprise a small component of the required post-training education requirements. Research is needed to determine whether this training translates into reductions in drug-related harm.

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