ACP issues 8 public policy recommendations for the treatment of substance abuse

The American College of Physicians issued a broad set of public policy recommendations for the treatment and prevention of substance use disorders for both illicit and prescription drugs in a new paper published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

In 2014, approximately 22.5 million people in the United States required treatment for a substance use problem, but only 18 percent received such treatment. In the same year, patients suffering from other chronic health conditions like hyper tension and diabetes received treatment 77 percent and 73 percent of the time, respectively.

"Drug overdose deaths, particularly from opioids such as prescription pain relievers and heroin, is a rising epidemic," said Nitin Damle, MD, president of the ACP. "Substance use disorders are treatable chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, that should be addressed through expansion of evidence-based public and individual health initiatives to prevent, treat, and promote recovery."

Here are ACP's eight public policy recommendations for the treatment of substance abuse.

1. Substance use disorders are treatable chronic health conditions and should be addressed as such through evidence-based public and individual health initiatives.

2. Treatment-based programs should be used as an alternative to punitive measures for individuals with substance abuse problems in the criminal justice system found guilty of drug possession or the sale of drugs.

3. Policymakers and researchers should examine pros and cons of removing or reducing criminal penalties for nonviolent offenses involving illicit drugs.

4. Medical and behavioral healthcare professionals, public health officials, government programs, patient advocacy groups, insurance plans, law enforcement and physicians should work together to curb the nation's current abuse epidemic of opioid prescription painkillers.

5. Insurers should be required to cover mental health conditions, including substance use disorders.

6. Policies should be implemented to increase the number of professionals qualified to treat substance abuse disorders.

7. Training involving the treatment of substance use disorders should now be intertwined throughout the spectrum of medical education.

8. Public health interventions designed to combat substance use disorders should be studied.

More articles on opioids: 
Michigan governor introduces new legislation to combat opioid epidemic 
Maine city proposes legislation to charge overdose victims for naloxone costs 
Ohio launches $3.5M program to help children of opioid addicts

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