Patients with a substance use disorder need treatment, not stigma. Addiction, also referred to as substance use disorder, is a chronic disease of the brain—one that can be treated successfully. People with a substance use disorder deserve to be treated like any other patient with a medical disease. Physicians can play an active role in changing the national discussion.
The AOA and the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse are working together to encourage America’s physicians, patients and policymakers to take action in three ways:
- First, we must change the conversation about what it means to have a substance use disorder and increase access to evidence-based treatments, like medication-assisted treatment, while removing barriers to treatment.
- Second, we encourage physicians to register for and use prescription drug monitoring programs to help identify when patients may need counseling and treatment. More than identifying “doctor shoppers,” this tool helps uncover the reasons why a patient is seeking medication and to offer a pathway for treatment and recovery.
- Third, improve prevention of substance abuse, including through early intervention, screening for co-morbidities, and public education campaigns.
Physicians see the harsh reality faced by patients with a substance use disorder. Stigmatizing patients helps no one. Treating these patients helps them live as fully functional members of society.