Press Release: Opioid, Heroin Epidemics Bring National Leaders to Atlanta to Strategize At AATOD Conference

The 2015 American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) Conference, “Addressing a Public Health Crisis: Opioid Dependence,” to be held in Atlanta from March 28th to April 1st, will feature experts from the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC), state  governments, industry, doctors and others in the treatment field.

Experts say Opioid Treatment Programs are underutilized in the U.S. and could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Opioid Treatment Programs constitute the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole patient approach. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and many others deem Opioid Treatment Programs a highly successful approach to treatment.

But a new report from the CDC found that heroin deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013. And the trend is worsening: heroin related deaths, which occur in all demographic groups and regions of the country, grew a staggering 39.3% from 2012 to 2013. There were about 44,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2013, more than 16,000 of them involving powerful prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin.

Substance abuse is costly to our nation, exacting over $600 billion annually in costs related to healthcare, lost work productivity and crime. For example, the average cost for a year of such programs is only $5,000, whereas a year of imprisonment costs over $31,000, and far more in areas like New York City where the average annual cost per inmate was $167,731 in 2012. Opioid Treatment Programs can seriously reduce these expenses.

“I look forward to this special event, and hope that it will act as a significant catalyst for improving treatment,” states Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont. In 2014, Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to the heroin crisis that is affecting all of America, including Vermont. Many of his initiatives were enacted, including giving grants to addiction clinics to help reduce waiting lists. About 40% more Vermonters are seeking addiction treatment now than a year ago. Shumlin will be presented with AATOD’s Friend of the Field Award at the conference.
The AATOD conference comes at a unique time in American history: in their 2014 National Drug Control policy, President Obama and the Office of Drug Control Policy proclaimed that the U.S. is experiencing an opioid epidemic and that they are “significantly bolstering support for Medication Assisted Opioid Treatment.” In February, by a vote of 92 to 0, the Senate approved Michael Botticelli as President Barack Obama’s top drug policy adviser. Botticelli will address the AATOD conference.

“Substance use disorders are chronic diseases and we should provide treatment for them accordingly. However, while around 72% of adults with diabetes receive some type of treatment for the disease, only one in nine people with a diagnosable substance use disorder gets treatment,” states Botticelli. “We must do better and I look forward to addressing AATOD on this challenge and how we are working to meet it.”

There are three federally approved medications to treat chronic opioid addiction. Methadone is the primary medication used in Opioid Treatment Programs, while buprenorphine and Vivitrol/Naltrexone are also critical.

“The CDC and states are implementing comprehensive strategies to prevent prescription drug overdoses by tracking the epidemic, scaling up effective public health interventions and equipping providers with data, tools and guidance. We must ensure that effective medication assisted therapies, which are markedly underutilized to treat addiction, become more widely used to prevent prescription drug overdoses, as well for recovery,” said Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who will also be addressing the conference.


Featured speakers will include, alphabetically:
• Michael P. Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP),
• Reverend Fred Wells Brason II, President/CEO, Project Lazarus, and Project Director, Community Care of North Carolina’s Medicaid Management System Statewide Chronic Pain Initiative, Moravian Falls, NC,
• Jonathan P. Connell, MA, President, Private Clinics, and TLC Clinic, Albany, GA,
• Richard C. Dart, MD, Director, Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, and Executive Director, Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS® System), Denver, CO,
• Thomas Frieden, MD, Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA,
• Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
• Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
• Mark Parrino, M.P.A., President, American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), and
• Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont


AATOD is the premier advocate, resource, and trainer in the field of Opioid Treatment Programs. Given today’s challenges, its role is more important than ever. Learn more at
Please contact Peter Schwartz for interviews at 520.609.2921 or

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