CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) released recommendations (PDF) today as part of its new Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force that aims to promote evidence-based policy to help end the drug-related overdose and death epidemic.

The recommendations are focused on actions that physicians can take as well as public policy changes that would ease the epidemic. This includes broad efforts to remove barriers and improve access to evidence-based care for patients with pain, a substance use disorder (SUD) or mental illness, as well as to increase access to harm-reduction strategies. The new task force also will work to more directly address the changing drug overdose epidemic, focus on removing racial, gender, sexual orientation and other health-related inequities.

“Physicians must continue to lead by example to help our patients with pain, SUDs and mental illness,” said AMA Board Chair and Task Force Chair Bobby Mukkamala, M.D. “Removing barriers requires policymakers to join us in establishing a more effective and humane approach. Failure to adopt these policies will prolong the epidemic and our patients’ suffering.”

The new task force combines the AMA’s Opioid Task Force and Pain Care Task Force. The new name and recommendations reflect a broader approach to the problem.

“The name may have changed, but this task force continues the work of promoting policies that will improve outcomes and save lives. No single recommendation is a panacea, but taken as a whole, they would move our country in the right direction,” Dr. Mukkamala said.

Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • Support patients with pain, mental illness or SUD by building an evidence-based, sustainable and resilient infrastructure and health care workforce rather than continuing a crisis-driven approach that has led to multiple unintended negative consequences, including one-size-fits-all strategies, continued stigma and widespread gaps in data, evidence-based treatment, and prevention efforts.
  • Support coverage for, access to, and payment of comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, multi-modal evidence-based treatment for patients with pain, a substance use disorder or mental illness. Additionally, coverage, access and payment should directly address racial, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and economic inequities as well as social determinants of health. This includes removing barriers to evidence-based treatment for SUDs, co-occurring mental illness and pain.
  • Broaden public health and harm reduction strategies to save lives from overdose, limit the spread of infectious disease, eliminate stigma and reduce harms for people who use drugs and other substances. This includes increased support for naloxone and sterile needle and syringe exchange services.
  • Improve stakeholder and multi-sector collaboration to ensure that the patients, policymakers, employers, and communities benefit from evidence-based decisions.
  • Read the full Task Force recommendations (PDF).

Member organizations in the AMA Substance Abuse and Pain Care Task Force include:

American Osteopathic Association

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

American Academy of Neurology

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

American Academy of Pain Medicine

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons

American College of Emergency Physicians

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

American College of Physicians

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Psychiatric Association

American Society of Addiction Medicine

American Society of Anesthesiologists

American Society of Clinical Oncology

Arkansas Medical Society

California Medical Association

Colorado Medical Society

Maine Medical Association

Massachusetts Medical Society

Medical Society of the State of New York

New Mexico Medical Society

Ohio State Medical Association

Oregon Medical Association

Utah Medical Association

Media Contact:

Jack Deutsch

ph: (202) 789-7442

[email protected]

About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.