UMass Medical Students Will Be Trained To Treat Opioid Abuse

By Paul Gaita 11/25/15

Preventing and treating opioid addiction has been added to the medical school's curriculum.

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New graduates of the University of Massachusetts Medical School will receive training on preventing and treating opioid addiction as part of their curriculum.

The school announced the implementation of 10 “core competencies” that will give new doctors, including the class of 2016, up-to-date information on addiction-related issues and treatment. The addition is in compliance with a request from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in early November to add these core competencies to the curriculum at all four of the state’s medical schools.

The new training at UMass will address evaluating patients’ levels of pain and risk of addiction, treatment options, pain management, and the appropriate use of naloxone, the opioid antagonist used to counter the effects of opioid overdose.

Students will be given performance-based learning experiences to develop skills in multiple scenarios, including observation, communication and interpersonal dynamics, prescription writing, patient counseling, and the effective use of tools, including drug urine screening and administration of naloxone.

Classroom instruction on these topics has been part of UMass’s curriculum since 2010, but the new additions will provide hands-on learning through simulations and a standardized patient program in which actors play the role of patients to test students’ communication skills.

The medical schools at Harvard, Tufts, and Boston universities have also agreed to add the new core competencies to their curriculums, but these will most likely be implemented in the next academic year. UMass School of Medicine Dean Terence R. Flotte sees these implementations as another tool in the greater struggle against addiction to drugs like heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers.

“It is our hope that this training model that was developed in response to the recommendations of Governor Baker’s administration and the medical school deans’ working group will become a national model to address the current and future opioid crises,” he stated.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.