Based on the input from Governor Baker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, the major medical schools in Massachusetts all stepped up recently and announced they are revising their curriculum to provide more emphasis on the assessment and treatment of addictions and drug abuse, with a focus on opiates. Last week, the medical school at the University of Massachusetts provided details of its plans and its intention to provide leadership for these changes. The curriculum will be changed during the current academic year and will include a focus on 10 core competencies including the ability to evaluate a patient’s level of pain and risk of addiction; various patient-centered treatment options; evidence-based pain management; and the appropriate use of naloxone.
Better education and training on the control of pain will reduce the use of addictive prescription opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Use of these drugs has been targeted as the starting point for many heroin addicts. As the supply of pills dries up or becomes too expensive, heroin is a more readily available and much cheaper alternative.
Also last week, the Salem State University School of Social Work in its Fall e-newsletter, announced some of its new curriculum which includes an emphasis on substance abuse and addictions. Social Workers and Mental Health Counselors are often the first professionals with whom an addict comes in contact. The lack of training in their programs has been another contributing factor in what we are now calling an “epidemic”.
The Governor’s Working Group’s 12 Key Strategies included: “Require all practitioners to receive training about addiction and safe prescribing practices.” The changes at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Salem State University School of Social Work are directly in line with this strategy and are a much needed upgrade to the current system.
Improving practitioner education to address the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders and addictions is long overdue.