Although alcoholism is prevalent in both general and inpatient populations, barriers to its timely diagnosis and effective treatment exist. These are often attributed to physicians' inadequate understanding and skill development and negative attitudes toward the disease. All Johns Hopkins' medical students and house staff, during 1986 through 1987, received a self-administered survey of their attitudes, skills, perceived role responsibility, knowledge, and reported practices with regard to alcoholism. Results indicate a strong relationship between perceived role responsibility, confidence in skills, and reported screening and referral practices among students and house staff. Knowledge levels strengthened the association between skills and practices for medical students. House staff perceived less of a responsibility for screening than medical students. There was a trend toward lower confidence and more negative attitudes among house staff than medical students. The results point to areas where educational interventions can be improved to enhance quality of care and outcomes for this major chronic disease.