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  • Washington Highlights

    Policymakers Consider Strategies for Addressing Substance Abuse

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    Both congressional and administration officials explored efforts to curb opioid abuse this week, including calls for increased education and training among health professionals.

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee Oct. 20 held a hearing to examine legislative proposals broadly related to the nation’s substance abuse crisis, a continuation of a hearing the committee convened on the subject the week before.

    Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) mentioned the 2011 White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, and questioned the medical school curriculum by suggesting that medical schools spend “less than 5 hours, if even 3 hours, of education is dedicated to those who are prescribing.” Rep. Brooks reiterated her concerns by adding, “When our med schools are getting three to five hours on pain, it’s just simply not enough.”

    Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) also voiced concerns about the amount of time spent in medical school on pain management, and noted that he had a “minimal” amount of training throughout medical school and residency training.

    At the earlier hearing on Oct. 8, ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli warned that “graduate medical education programs may not necessarily provide a comprehensive focus on identification or treatment of substance use disorders,” and called for “ensuring that prescribers are better educated on the dangers of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.”

    Meanwhile, President Obama Oct. 21 announced at an event in West Virginia new public and private sector efforts to address substance abuse. He used the occasion to issue a Presidential Memorandum requiring all Federal clinicians that prescribe controlled substances to undergo training on opioid prescribing, and directing Federal health care agencies to review policies that may be acting as barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).  

    The White House also announced several state, local, and private sector commitments to address substance abuse. As part of the effort, AAMC has committed to sharing “professional guidance and best practices to better educate the next generation of health care workers on opioid misuse and substance use disorders.”

    President Obama also spoke about the collective effort, private and public sector, needed to combat drug abuse, and then participated in a discussion involving law enforcement officers, health care professionals, and community leaders to talk about their personal experience with regards to substance abuse. Clay Marsh, M.D., Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences of the WVU Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, and Joseph Shapiro, M.D., Dean of Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, attended the President’s discussion in West Virginia on behalf of AAMC.