Now comes the hard part: Turning national attention into action
A father of five in Charleston, W. Va., last month told President Obama at a public event that if it weren’t for the quick response of police and paramedics earlier this year, his daughter would have died from a drug overdose. She is now in recovery, and the president—and the rest of us in the East End Community Center that day—wished him and his daughter the best.
Recovering from addiction, however, is not like recovering from a broken bone. It is a chronic medical disease that demands our care and compassion—as physicians and as a nation. We know that more than 24,000 Americans die from a prescription opioid or heroin-related overdose every year. Last month in Charleston, the president, the AMA and dozens of national and local organizations from across the country pledged to take action.
The hard part is now before us. We need to turn national attention on the problem and the need for greater education and treatment into measurable reductions in opioid-related harm. And we need to do this while preserving access to safe and effective pain care. For physicians, this means that we must act in several clear ways:
Register for and use your state prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP)
Do this whether you prescribe opioids or not. An effective PDMP can help inform your prescribing decisions by letting you review the patient’s prescription history and identify signs of potential red flags for substance use disorder. Visit the AMA’s PDMP directory to access your state’s PDMP.
Bolster your education
When was the last time you took a course on safe opioid prescribing, diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder, pain management, or other related topics specific to your specialty? The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has collected the best resources from more than 70 medical societies and other organizations to help you enhance your education as you work to improve patient outcomes.
Become trained to provide medication assisted treatment
If there was one message that rang loudest in Charleston, it was the call to remove the stigma of suffering from substance use disorders. This also includes increasing access to treatment—and that means more physicians need to be able to offer that treatment. If you are interested in being a part of this solution, the American Society of Addiction Medicine offers waiver qualifying buprenorphine training in multiple formats, which covers what you need to know.
This drug, which helped save the life of the daughter in Charleston, has saved tens of thousands of lives in communities across the country. Now it’s time for us physicians to help increase the number of lives saved by co-prescribing naloxone when it is clinically indicated. The AMA has resources that can help provide more information.
At the end of the day in Charleston, we all were energized by the partnership and alignment on what needs to be done to help end the nation’s opioid epidemic. Through our ongoing advocacy and work with the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, the AMA is committed to equipping physicians to accomplish these goals. I urge you to join us.