Alabama physicians partner with the AMA to combat opioid epidemic


The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

The CDC shows prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin killed more than 28,000 people across the country in 2014 alone.

In recent years, the use of opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Lortab have been particularly common in the Yellowhammer State, contributing to the 723 drug-related deaths in 2014.

But Alabama’s opioid epidemic will soon be a thing of the past if the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the American Medical Association (AMA) have anything to say about it.

The two organizations Wednesday announced a partnership to create and distribute an educational toolbox designed to help fight opioid and heroin abuse across the state.

The kit will be released in September both online and in print, and will incorporate the best information from the AMA, the Medical Association and Alabama’s health officials. It will include key data, valuable resources, and practice-specific recommendations they need to enhance their decision-making when caring for patients suffering from chronic or acute pain and opioid use disorders, as well as for patients needing overdose prevention education.

“To bring a halt to this devastating opioid epidemic, physicians must remain committed to leading this fight — to enhancing their education and to using all tools at their disposal to help treat patients with pain and opioid use disorders as well as ensuring comprehensive treatment with non-pharmacologic therapies when appropriate,” said Dr. Patrice A. Harris, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees and chair of the AMA’s Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse.

Alabama and Rhode Island are the first two states partnering with the AMA in this pilot program.

In 2013, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama helped pass legislation to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion. That legislation resulted in Alabama having the largest decrease in the Southeast — the third-largest in the nation regarding use of the most highly addictive prescription drugs.

“Alabama’s physicians recognize we have a serious prescription drug problem in our state,” said Medical Association President Dr. David Herrick of Montgomery. “We have made great strides in providing better education on the dangers of prescription drug abuse to our fellow physicians and to our patients through our Smart & Safe drug abuse awareness campaign. But there is much more work to be done. Partnering with the American Medical Association will help us to bring even more awareness as we fight Alabama’s prescription drug abuse epidemic together.”



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