APA calls for action to address high number of overdose deaths
In light of recent CDC data showing more than 100,000 U.S. deaths from overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, the American Psychiatric Association reviewed effective substance abuse treatments and called for efforts to intervene.
“These data continue to highlight the alarming trend of increasing overdose deaths in the U.S.,” Smita Das, MD, PhD, MPH, chair of APA’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, told Healio. “Overdose doesn't just include opioids but can include other substances, alcohol and poly-substance use.
“With the pandemic, there has been a deadly mix of worsening mental health symptoms and increased substance use,” Das added. “The dual diagnosis nature of this makes the news about overdose deaths especially pertinent to psychiatrists.”
In a press release, APA highlighted the importance of improved access to mental health and substance use services via early identification in evidence-based models that combine behavioral health treatment and primary care services.
There is a need to develop and implement science-based policies and programs intended to reduce the high number of opioid overdoses and offer effective substance use treatment for all patients through a thorough review and discussion between Congress, federal policymakers and addiction treatment specialists, the release said.
APA further highlighted the need for policies and programs to support accredited medical school and residency programs in training clinicians to treat individuals with substance use disorders. These approaches should incentivize more educators, consultants and physician leaders to join and bolster the addiction workforce, the release said.
“Everything from simple screening, or asking about substance use consistently, to becoming familiar with treatment and referral can help reduce overdose deaths,” Das said. “By asking about all substance use systematically, psychiatrists not only identify areas needing treatment, but we can reduce stigma around the topic and signal to our patients that in addition to their depression, anxiety and so on, we also value learning about their substance use.
“We all can integrate treatment strategies in practice,” Das added, “from motivational interviewing and CBT to prescribing evidence-based medications for substance use disorders.”
- 12 Month-ending provisional number of drug overdose deaths. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm. Published Nov. 7, 2021. Accessed Nov. 21, 2021.