I want to applaud the American College of Physicians (ACP) for its recommendations on the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, which was published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It’s significant that America’s largest medical specialty organization reaffirms that addiction is a chronic disease that can be managed through expansion of evidence-based initiatives.
Here are some of the key recommendations by the ACP which Caron wholeheartedly supports:
- The implementation of treatment-focused programs as an alternative to incarceration or other criminal penalties for individuals with substance use disorders found guilty of the sale or possession of illicit substances.
- Research on the individual and public health effects in states that have legalized or decriminalized the use of marijuana, and the effectiveness of regulatory structures in those states that may minimize any adverse health impacts especially on children and teens.
- Multiple stakeholders should cooperate to address the epidemic of prescription drug misuse, including the following strategies: implementation of evidence-based guidelines for pain management; expansion of access to naloxone to opioid users, law enforcement, and emergency medical personnel; expansion of access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders; improved training in the treatment of substance use disorders, including buprenorphine-based treatment; establishment of a national prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP); and improvement of existing monitoring programs.
- Health insurance should be required to cover mental health conditions, including the evidence-based treatment of substance use disorders, and abide parity rules.
- The workforce of professionals qualified to treat substance use disorders should be expanded.
- Training in the treatment of substance use disorders should be embedded throughout the continuum of medical education. Continuing medical education providers should offer courses to train physicians in addiction medicine, medication-assisted therapy, evidence-based prescribing, and the identification and treatment of substance use disorders.
- The effectiveness of public health interventions to combat substance use disorders and associated health problems should be studied.
There are still too many barriers to treatment for millions of families. The more highly regarded institutions step forward and take strong positions about prevention and treatment – the closer we become to developing and implementing lifesaving solutions for everyone.