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Internists recommend how to prevent and treat substance use disorders

Drug overdose deaths, particularly from opioids such as prescription pain relievers and heroin, is a rising epidemic

San Diego, March 30, 2017 -- Internists from the American College of Physicians (ACP) offered recommendations to prevent and treat substance use disorders today at Internal Medicine Meeting 2017, ACP’s annual scientific meeting.

“Substance use disorders are treatable chronic health conditions that should be addressed through expansion of evidence-based public and individual health initiatives to prevent, treat, and promote recovery, rather than excessive reliance on criminalization and incarceration,” said ACP President Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP, ACP.

Thomas G. Tape, MD, MACP, Chair of ACP’s Board of Regents, and Chwen-Yuen Angie Chen, MD, FACP, FASAM, Director, Primary Care Chemical Dependency Program, Stanford University School of Medicine, joined Dr. Damle on the panel.

“Physicians must become familiar with and follow as appropriate clinical guidelines related to pain management and controlled substances such as prescription opioids as well as non-opioid drugs and non-drug interventions,” said Dr. Tape, who served as ACP’s representative on the Core Expert Group for the CDC’s 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

Dr. Chen emphasized need for education in addiction medicine.

“Practice improvement programs such as ACP’s Practice Advisor, with modules like Opioid Risk Management and Addressing Substance Use, are valuable resources for physicians,” said Dr. Chen, who is collaborating with ACP’s Quality Improvement Program to address chronic pain management and opioid prescribing practices within primary care.

ACP has a comprehensive set of recommendations for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in “Health and Public Policy to Facilitate Effective Prevention and Treatment of Substances Use Disorders involving Illicit and Prescription Drugs,” published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

To combat the epidemic of prescription drug misuse, ACP recommends the expansion of access to naloxone to opioid users, law enforcement, and emergency medical personnel; the expansion of access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders; improved training in the treatment of substance use disorders including buprenorphine-based treatment; and the establishment of a national Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and improvement of existing monitoring programs.

Additional recommendations from ACP include requiring health insurance to cover mental health conditions including the evidence-based treatment of substance use disorders and abide parity rules; embedding training in the treatment of substance use disorders throughout the continuum of medical education; expanding the workforce of professionals qualified to treat substance use disorders; and studying the effectiveness of public health interventions to combat substance use disorders and associated health problems.

About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States. ACP members include 148,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.