Addiction Policy Forum Blog

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What Role Should Psychiatrists Play in Responding to the Opioid Epidemic?

By Mark Gold, MD on March 21, 2019

As America continues to deal with an opioid overdose epidemic of staggering proportions, public health initiatives are faced with the needs of the more than 1.7 million people who are suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) as of 2017.1 This crisis is exacerbated by the shortage of health care practitioners trained and able to use FDA approved medication, like buprenorphine, to treat patients with an OUD. In a nation with a population exceeding 320 million, there are only 1100 psychiatrists specializing in addiction—the need for providers who are equipped and able to treat OUD is greater than ever. In a recent paper from the Yale School of Medicine Srinivas B. Muvvala, MD, MPH, Ellen Lockard Edens, MD, MPE, and Ismene L. Petrakis, MD, call upon psychiatrists and mental health professionals to play a more active role in addressing the current opioid crisis.

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