According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioids prescribed in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past 15 years, even though there has been no change in the amount of physical pain reported by patients.
What’s more, addiction treatment is currently not a focus in many medical schools, meaning most doctors do not know how to identify or treat substance use disorder, despite the public health emergency that it is.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can provide pain management to the patients who need it without flooding our communities with dangerous pills, and we can ensure all medical professionals are prepared to treat addiction. It starts with improved provider training, which should begin in medical school.
Shatterproof believes that better education for our healthcare providers is an important tool to prevent addiction. That’s why we support The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act, which is designed to ensure that all DEA-controlled medication prescribers have a baseline knowledge of how to prevent addiction and how to identify, treat, and manage patients who have substance use disorders.
We also supported S. 2711, the Enhancing Access to Addiction Treatment Act. This provision was ultimately included in H.R. 6, which passed in 2019, and will create a new grant program to support the development of medical school courses that will lead to a new generation of physicians with expertise on how to identify and treat addiction.
Ultimately, we need to ensure that physicians who prescribe opioids are continuing to receive education throughout their career on opioid addiction and treatment. This could be accomplished by including a continuing education requirement for physicians obtaining or renewing registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances. It’s also important that the training itself be comprehensive, covering opioid misuse detection, appropriate prescribing guidelines, and substance use disorder treatment.
To advance this policy area, Shatterproof supports H.R. 2734/S. 1448, the Safer Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act. This bill would create an addiction-training requirement for those who prescribe controlled substances.
Common-sense legislation like this is essential prevention. By giving medical professionals better training on substance use disorders, we can ensure more Americans are receiving the comprehensive and evidence-based treatment they need. And by continuing to train providers on the safe and appropriate uses for opioids, we can reduce dangerous overprescribing and limit the number of pills available for misuse and diversion—while also ensuring that pain patients receive the care they need.