APA, AMA Join Forces to Combat Opioid Abuse Crisis

Megan Brooks

July 31, 2015

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and more than two dozen other medical organizations to address the growing epidemic of opioid abuse, the APA announced this week.

"We have APA employees and members of the APA's Council on Addiction Psychiatry participating," an APA media spokesperson told Medscape Medical News.

Opioid abuse has reached crisis levels across the United States, with 44 people dying each day from opioid overdose and many more becoming addicted, the APA notes in a news release.

In 2014, the AMA board of trustees invited more than 25 state, specialty, and other healthcare associations to join a task force to work to reverse the nation's opioid epidemic.

The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse currently includes 27 physician organizations, including the APA, the AMA, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Dental Association, as well as 17 specialty and seven state medical societies. Task force members will work to identify the "best practices" to combat opioid abuse and "move swiftly" to implement those practices across the country.

"As experts in the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders, psychiatrists play an important role in curbing this epidemic and helping our medical colleagues participate in the prescribing part of the treatment plan," APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, MD, said in the release. "The APA is honored to join our colleagues in the house of medicine in addressing this problem. We owe it to our patients to ensure they receive the proper and appropriate care."

An initial focus for the task force is to get physicians to register for and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which can help in deciding whether to prescribe an opioid. "When used effectively, PDMPs can help assess your patient's prescription history and immediately determine whether your patients have received prescriptions from other prescribers and dispensers, including those from other states," according to the task force web page.

"PDMPs vary greatly in efficacy and functionality from state to state," said psychiatrist and AMA board chair–elect Patrice A. Harris, MD. "Alone, they will not end this crisis, but they can provide helpful clinical information, and because they are available in nearly every state, PDMPs can be effective in turning the tide to end opioid abuse in the right direction."

The web page also includes opioid abuse prevention resources and handouts for physicians and patients.

"America's patients who live with acute and chronic pain deserve compassionate, high-quality, and personalized care, and we will do everything we can to create a healthcare response that ensures they live longer, fuller, and productive lives," Dr Harris said.

"We have joined together as part of this special task force because we collectively believe that it is our responsibility to work together to provide a clear road map that will help bring an end to this public health epidemic," he added. "We are committed to working long term on a multipronged, comprehensive public health approach to end opioid abuse in America."

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