The AMA Join Forces With the APA to Address Opioid Epidemic

By John Lavitt 08/24/15

Over two dozen medical associations are working together to stem the tide of abuse.


The American Medical Association (AMA) has teamed up with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to address the growing epidemic of opioid abuse across the country. In conjunction with over two dozen other medical organizations, the medical profession is raising the alarm that something needs to be done about the problem. The abuse of both heroin and prescription painkillers has skyrocketed, with 44 people dying each day from overdose and many more becoming addicted.

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

"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," said psychiatrist and AMA board chair–elect Patrice A. Harris, MD. "We are committed to working long term on a multi-pronged, comprehensive public health approach to end opioid abuse in America."

An initial focus for the task force is to get physicians to register for and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). When used effectively, such programs can help determine whether or not patients have received prescriptions from other prescribers and dispensers, including those from other states. The goal is to prevent the addict-motivated behavior of doctor shopping. In addition, PDMPs can raise the alarm to get people with opioid abuse and addiction problems help from both doctors and therapists.

"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 a recent press 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."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.