Overdosing on opioids is an epidemic in America. More than 14,000 Americans overdose each year, quadrupling from 1999 to 2014, and doctors are not always properly prepared to help.
Many view addiction as a personal vice, not a disease. Some believe it is too difficult to treat in a medical setting. Since the current epidemic is mainly due to prescribed opioid painkillers, doctors are forced into dealing with addiction in their practice. Only 1,200 of active U.S. physicians have certification in addiction medicine.
Medical schools currently offer a mere few hours over the four years dedicated to addiction medicine. Schools are slow to change curriculum. Some medical students at Harvard have started their own training, educating themselves about how to buy and administer drugs that reverse the effects of an overdose, since the school isn’t doing it. Stanford’s medical school has changed from treating addiction as a side note in psychiatry to teaching it as a separate unit. This training will continue into clinical rotations using actors as patients. It will also be recommended to suggest alternative pain treatment, such as acupuncture or massage, before prescribing opioids.
Over 60 medical schools signed a pledge in February promising to teach students about responsible opioid prescription. Many top-tier schools, such as Harvard and Stanford did not sign. Instead, they signed an alternative statement acknowledging the role of medical schools in treating the epidemic.
Educating new physicians could help change the view of addiction as a disease rather than a choice.
Jacewicz, Natalie. “Teaching Future Doctors About Addiction.” News. Kaiser Health News, 2 Aug 2016. Web. 2 Aug 2016.