Overdose Epidemic

5 reasons to read the surgeon general’s opioid epidemic report

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

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.

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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.