Why Does This Doctor Talk about His Addiction? Because “Secrets Make You Sick”

[The following post by Dr. Peter Grinspoon has been shared with us by Harvard Health Publishing after originally appeared on their website in May of 2019.]

Going Public with Sobriety…

 

Alcoholism is hardly a rare disorder in the United States. According to recent studies, 12.7% of adult Americans currently suffer from alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as alcoholism; according to other studies, 29% will meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder at some point during their adult lives.

If you add drugs to the mix, addiction (substance use disorder, including alcoholism) is even more common: it is estimated that in 2015, 20.8 million Americans met criteria for a substance use disorder within the prior year.

Given how common this problem is, one might think addiction would be readily accepted by our society, and that all one would have to do in order to get support is to admit one’s problem and ask for help. Right? Continue reading “Why Does This Doctor Talk about His Addiction? Because “Secrets Make You Sick””

Dispelling Common Myths about Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnancy

By Sarah Bernstein, MD and Jessica Gray, MD
March 21, 2019

The opioid crisis and rise in overdose deaths in recent years has received a great deal of media attention. Though the media has helped to raise awareness, it has also contributed to stigmatization of individuals struggling with addiction. Pregnant and parenting women are among those who have been severely affected by the epidemic and perhaps most shamed by society for their use. Sadly, at a time when many women feel motivated to connect with the health care system and make healthy choices, women with addiction often avoid interacting with providers due to feelings of shame and mistrust. There are many misconceptions regarding the risks and benefits of medical treatment for women with substance use disorders as well as the treatment of neonatal withdrawal. We hope to dispel some of these myths and provide a better understanding of the evidence supporting the treatment of substance use disorders in the setting of pregnancy as well as neonatal withdrawal. Continue reading “Dispelling Common Myths about Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnancy”

HMS Online CME Courses Approved for MAT Waiver Training

by The HMS CME Online Team
November 2018

NP and PA MAT Waiver Training

Through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) can become waivered to prescribe buprenorphine in the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) after completing 24 hours of specialized training.

We are pleased to announce that The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has approved two of Harvard Medical School’s CME Online Opioid Use Disorder Education Program courses as fulfilling the 16-hour portion of the NP/PA 24-hour required training for waiver eligibility. These courses are: Continue reading “HMS Online CME Courses Approved for MAT Waiver Training”

Making sense of opioid prescribing in the midst of the overdose crisis

By Sarah Wakeman, MD
September 18, 2018

In the face of a growing crisis of overdose deaths, predominantly driven by opioid-related fatalities, there has been a tremendous focus on decreasing the prescribing of opioid pain relievers. The reason for the drive to reduce prescribing is pretty simple; when we looked at the onset of the current crisis of opioid-related deaths, it was strongly correlated with rising rates of prescription opioids and treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorder. As policy makers and clinicians looked at this correlation, a simplistic narrative emerged. If increased prescribing rates “caused” the overdose crisis, then reducing prescribing should curtail deaths. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” As prescribing rates have decreased over the past five years, we have seen opioid-related deaths increase significantly. Continue reading “Making sense of opioid prescribing in the midst of the overdose crisis”

Doctors and Patients—Treating Chronic Pain As a Team

By Peter Grinspoon, MD
April 5, 2018

[Part three of a three-part series.]

As a profession, we can best navigate this complex thicket by returning to a basic, simple principle: the patient comes first.

As an undergraduate philosophy major, I learned that a moral system was flawed if a situation could present itself where a person could do no right. When it comes to providing pain medications, and treating chronic pain patients, doctors can feel as if their moral universe is broken. We are assailed on all sides. Bureaucrats try to restrict our prescribing and intimidate or harass us into not prescribing opiates. Patients rage at us when we can’t or don’t prescribe these medications. The end result can be a rupture in the thing that most of us value above all else: the doctor-patient bond. Continue reading “Doctors and Patients—Treating Chronic Pain As a Team”

The Harried Doctor & Chronic Pain Patients

By Peter Grinspoon, MD
March 8, 2018

[Part two of a three-part series.]

Why do so many healthcare providers find it difficult to treat chronic pain patients? I have not seen colleagues roll their eyes or audibly groan upon hearing that a patient that is new to their panel has diabetes or cancer, so what is it about a pain patient on opiates that fills so many with dread? Continue reading “The Harried Doctor & Chronic Pain Patients”

The Orphaned Patient: Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids

By Peter Grinspoon, M.D.
February 1, 2018

[Part 1 of a 3-part series.]

The commonly cited proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” was coined in the twelfth century by a French abbot named Bernard of Clairvaux. In no case is this adage more apt than as applies to chronic pain patients, who have been cut off from their longstanding and stable supplies of opiates by physicians who have been convinced, cajoled, intimidated, mandated, and cowed into no longer prescribing high-dose opiates for chronic pain patients in response to the current opiate epidemic. Continue reading “The Orphaned Patient: Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids”

The Opioid Crisis and Physician Burnout: A Tale of Two Epidemics

December 14, 2017

[The following post by Steven A. Adelman, MD has been shared with us by Harvard Health Publishing where it originally appeared in June of 2016. In light of increasing pressure on physicians to become part of the solution to the opioid epidemic, we invite you to share your thoughts on physician burnout, and the role it plays, in the comment section after reading this post.]

In April [2016], the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, attended a meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists. In an exclusive interview with MedPage Today, he shared his mounting concerns about two matters: the impact of burnout on physicians and our society’s current opioid crisis. Dr. Murthy stated that he views physicians as being an essential part of the solution to the epidemic of drug overdoses, which have exceeded motor vehicle accidents as one of the leading causes of death.

Dr. Murthy correctly linked the well-being of health professionals with that of the general public, stating, “As I think about the emotional well-being for our country, I am particularly interested in how to cultivate emotional well-being for healthcare providers. If healthcare providers aren’t well, it’s hard for them to heal the people for whom they are caring.” Continue reading “The Opioid Crisis and Physician Burnout: A Tale of Two Epidemics”

A Primary Care Doctor Delves into the Opioid Epidemic

November 14, 2017

[The following post by Monique Tello, MD, MPH, has been shared with us by Harvard Health Publishing, having originally appeared on their website in February 2017.]

Our nephew Christopher died of a heroin overdose in October 2013. It had started with pain pills and experimentation, and was fueled by deep grief. He was charismatic, lovable, a favorite uncle, and a hero to all the children in his life. His death too young was a huge loss to our family. I have always felt that I didn’t do enough to help prevent it, and perhaps, in a way, even contributed. Continue reading “A Primary Care Doctor Delves into the Opioid Epidemic”

HMS Responds to the Opioid Crisis with Education

Harvard Medical School’s dean, George Daley, recently hosted a panel presentation to highlight “the transformative role that education can and should play in solving the opioid crisis.” HMS speakers at the event presented a three-pronged approach taken by the medical school to address the current epidemic of opioid use and abuse which includes educating medical students, health care professionals, and the general public. Other notable invitees spoke about health care policy in our government.

The following is a summary of the event by Dean David Roberts, one of the presenting speakers:

By David Roberts, MD
HMS Dean for External Education
October 13, 2017

On October 3rd, my colleagues Todd Griswold, Bertha Madras, and I joined Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker and HMS dean George Daley to make a presentation on Harvard Medical School’s response to the opioid crisis. The live-streamed event held at the HMS Martin Conference Center was attended by a large in-person audience with an additional remote audience of more than 6,000 viewers.

For my part, I presented on the great work Harvard Medical School teams are doing creating free online learning resources for clinicians, recovery coaches, first responders, and family members who are wrestling with the opioid crisis every day. Continue reading “HMS Responds to the Opioid Crisis with Education”