Whether you are a medical student, resident, academic or physician in clinical practice, time is precious. That is part of the reason why U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD—an AMA member—has provided a brief, 40-page report that puts a spotlight on the opioid epidemic and what the nation must do to end it.
Here are five things that physicians and other health professionals should know about Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids and why it is a must-read.
Ending the opioid epidemic requires a comprehensive, patient-centered focus.This epidemic demands comprehensive, patient-focused, integrated solutions, and the report provides the evidence base that provides important support for comprehensive care rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Medication-assisted treatment works for treating substance-use disorders. The report provides strong support for treating all patient populations with medication-assisted treatment, including mental health care, for all patients, including pregnant women and those for criminal justice populations.
There are multiple harm-reduction strategies to pursue. In addition to naloxone access, strategies to reduce opioid-related harms include needle or syringe exchange to reduce transmission of infectious disease.
Recovery requires ongoing care and removing stigma. Improving access to care and helping ensure high-quality evidence-based treatment requires medical oversight and effective integration of prevention, treatment and recovery services across the health care continuum. Substance-use disorders can and should be medically treated like any other chronic condition.
It’s a quick read. The report will take less than one hour to read, but it will almost certainly raise your knowledge about the epidemic, provide clarity on evidence-based solutions, and help end the stigma associated with having a substance use disorder and to ensure our patients receive the care they deserve.
The surgeon general’s opioids spotlight report “is a powerful document that emphasizes the need for evidence-based approaches to end the opioid epidemic,” said Patrice A. Harris, MD, AMA president-elect and the chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force.
Dr. Harris noted that only about 12 percent of adults who need treatment for a substance-use disorder get it.
“We need to narrow the gap between the number of people who need treatment and the resources available for substance use disorders; we need to remove arbitrary limits on coverage and barriers to care,” Dr. Harris said. “We will continue to work to help end the stigma associated with having a substance use disorder and to ensure our patients receive the care they deserve.”
The AMA urges removing all barriers to treatment for substance-use disorder.
The AMA Opioid Task Force also encourages physicians to take these six actions:
- Register and use state prescription-drug monitoring programs.
- Enhance education and training.
- Support comprehensive treatment for pain and substance-use disorders.
- Help end stigma.
- Co-prescribe naloxone to patients at risk of overdose.
- Encourage safe storage and disposal of opioids and all medications.
Visit the AMA’s End the Epidemic website to learn more.