In my last blog, I implored our public officials to not just talk the talk, but to really walk the walk. But doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other medical professionals must not take a back seat; and in fact, health care professionals have been abdicating their responsibilities! Who better to explain the causes and the solutions to the current opioid epidemic?
I was recently invited to speak to doctors and physician assistant students at Mercer University College of Health Professions. I took this opportunity to discuss a variety of topics, including: defining the difference between Drug Tolerance, Dependency and Addiction and why opioid addiction is a chronic illness – an end organ disease affecting brain structure and function. I emphasized that one may choose to use a drug, but no one chooses to become addicted. The stigma of addiction and the words we use to describe it needs to change. It is not “Substance Abuse”, but rather “Substance Use Disorder”. It is a bio-psycho-social illness that has no socio-economic barriers and has been proven to respond to medication assisted treatment. In fact, the relapse rates of Addiction is similar to that of other chronic illnesses.
Most importantly, I stressed the need for our doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care professionals to step forward and not abdicate our responsibility to educate.
Consistent Talking Points to Educate
- Chronic Illness
- Not an Inner City Disease
- Equal Opportunity Disease
- Who/What to Blame for Heroin Epidemic
- Treatment works
I closed my presentation at mercer University with a quote from an op-ed from the Boston Globe that I wrote several years ago, and remains true today:
There should be just as many public service announcements about addiction as there are Viagra and Cialis commercials. In addition, expansion of addiction treatment services in jails would help to mitigate much of the revolving door phenomenon. Furthermore, we should demand that our medical schools and hospitals improve addiction training of our physicians. While there is plenty of blame to go around, let’s focus on the solutions. The scourge of addiction is in all of our yards. The solution is to decrease the demand with bold public initiatives and a change in attitude. It is both the humanitarian and fiscally responsible thing to do.