Increasing Support For Treatment in the Medical Establishment

The importance of NIH Consensus Conferences cannot be underestimated since it provides a scientific forum where independent non-governmental experts examine the evidence in support of a specific area of medicine. The panel was chaired by Dr. Lewis L. Judd of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine.

The panel recognized that less than 20% of the estimated 600,000 heroin dependent individuals in the U.S. are being treated in methadone programs, in spite of the long-standing efficacy of methadone maintenance. The panel’s primary recommendations include the following:

  • Eliminating unnecessary layers of federal and state regulation for methadone and similar opiate treatment medications
  • Instituting means other than regulation to improve the quality of methadone treatment, such as accreditation of methadone treatment programs
  • Improving the training that physicians and other health care professionals receive in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heroin addiction
  • Increasing funding for methadone treatment, including providing benefits to methadone treatment as part of public and private health insurance programs

We commend NIH and NIDA for convening the Consensus Conference and have already begun to implement its leading recommendations. Our Association’s Board of Directors approved a proposal to work in conjunction with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to provide regional physician training seminars throughout the United States, implementing one of the NIH recommendations. The ASAM Board of Directors also approved this joint policy initiative during their April 1998 Board meeting.

We will implement the first training initiative with an all day session during Saturday, September 26, 1998 as a pre-conference session at the national methadone conference. This will also mark the first time that we are encouraging physicians to participate in this training opportunity, who have not been engaged in treating patients in methadone maintenance programs. It is incumbent upon us to be involved in training the next cadre of physicians, who will build on the expertise of methadone treatment caregivers, creating a better integrated system of care for the future. It is the only way that we will be able to implement our policy initiative of referring stable methadone maintained patients to genera1613l medical practice settings.

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