April 24, 2015

Multidisciplinary Faculty to Present Course on Overdose Education

A popular online program designed to provide prescribers and pharmacists with a better understanding of overdose education and how to use naloxone rescue kits will be presented live in a one-hour course Friday.

“Prescribe to Prevent: Overdose Prevention and Naloxone Rescue for Prescribers and Pharmacists” will be presented from 2 to 3 pm in Governor’s Ballroom E, Fourth Floor. It will feature a multidisciplinary faculty that includes an addiction medicine physician, a pharmacist, and an attorney.

“There is an overdose crisis, so, clearly, access to opioid treatment is really important,” said the session organizer, Alexander Y. Walley, MD, MSc. “There are many people who die of overdose before they have the opportunity to access treatment. Naloxone rescue kits and overdose prevention education are two things that, as addiction experts, we can use to keep people alive long enough to benefit from treatment.”

The session will explain key aspects of overdose prevention education, how to discuss prevention with patients, and how to prescribe naloxone rescue kits, said Dr. Walley, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

He will be joined by presenters Jeffrey P. Bratberg, PharmD, BCPS, a Clinical Professor at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, and Corey Davis, JD, MSPH, a Staff Attorney at the National Health Law Program, Carrboro, North Carolina.

“Jeffrey Bratberg is going to focus on the issues of the physician-pharmacist team as a way to prevent overdoses and as a way to treat people safely with medication for their addiction and other conditions,” Dr. Walley said. “Corey Davis will talk about the legal issues around prescribing naloxone rescue kits. He is a national health law expert who has focused on how to use public health law to reduce overdoses.”

The course also will feature a 10-minute video showing case scenarios as examples of how to incorporate overdose education and naloxone distribution into a medical practice. The online CME course was funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, and it includes a three-minute demonstration video available at prescribetoprevent.org.

“As addiction medicine experts, we need to take overdose seriously and educate our patients on how to prevent it regardless of where they are in their stage of readiness,” Dr. Walley said. “We need to be leaders in our communities in reducing overdose risk, which includes prescribing overdose kits.”

ASAM updated its “Public Policy Statement on the Use of Naloxone for the Prevention of Drug Overdose Deaths” in 2014 to recommend the employment of “co-prescription” programs and that all addiction treatment agencies have on-site supplies of naloxone for “rescue” dosing. Learn more about the updated policy in ASAM Magazine.

President’s Symposium to Address Marijuana Legalization

The polarizing topic of marijuana legalization and the reaction of the addiction medicine community to more states and communities considering less strict marijuana laws will be examined Friday in the President’s Symposium, “Marijuana: Patient to Policy.”

The session will feature four speakers with experience in addiction treatment and policy discussing the potential impact of anticipated changes in marijuana legislation and treatment on clinical practice and patient outcomes. In light of the great interest in the topic, the President’s Symposium will be presented twice — from 10:30 am to noon and from 4 to 5:30 pm, both in Governor’s Ballroom A-C, on the Fourth Floor.

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

“The country has been pushing hard to have a third legal psychoactive substance available,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA. “We have a drug that has no proven benefit whatsoever for medicinal purposes or for any other type of use. It is full of risks and harmful outcomes.

“We recognize there may be some components of the marijuana plant that have some medicinal applications, and we are all for research for that. But we don’t see any reason the country needs higher morbidity and mortality in return for nothing. This is our chance to hear from the leaders of the groups that are responsible in many ways for seeking some reason as opposed to the ridiculousness that we have been confronting over the past few years.”

Speaking at the sessions will be:

  • Wilson M. Compton, MD, MPE, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Kevin Sabet, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana
  • Kevin M. Gray, MD, Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Patrick J. Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative and Founder of the Kennedy Forum

ASAM, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all taken positions against, and Dr. Gitlow questioned the potential effect of restrictions to go along with legalization.

“We already have plenty of restrictions in terms of availability of cigarettes to young people. Those restrictions have never done anything in terms of really stopping the flow,” he said. “But the prohibition type of approach worked well for alcohol. What we are seeing is significant upticks of use among young people where legalization is present, even with the restrictions.

“We want to make sure all of our members are familiar with those issues and have an understanding of what the experiment in the Western states has demonstrated.”

Annual Conference Brings More Learning with a Dose of Fun

This year’s premier event for addiction medicine specialists has been revamped with exciting changes in format and structure to provide learning in a more interactive, casual, and fun environment. During the newly named Annual Conference—formerly the ASAM Medical Scientific Conference—you’ll take in the latest innovations and scientific developments in more than 60 hours of educational content, but you also are certain to have fun with your friends and colleagues.


Michael Fingerhood, MD, FACP

Beginning a year ago, planners set out to update the program, said Annual Conference Program Committee Chair Michael Fingerhood, MD, FACP.

“By making the education sessions shorter in duration than previous years, we have been able to offer more options and create more hands-on, interactive programming to build knowledge and skills,” said Dr. Fingerhood, Associate Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Division of Chemical Dependency at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

A not-to-be-missed highlight is the Opening Scientific Plenary from 8:30 to 10 am Friday in Governors Ballroom A-C, Fourth Floor. This dynamic event features three special guests—George Koob, PhD, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director and the ASAM R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award Winner; Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, Founder of the Kennedy Forum. ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA, will lead the Opening Scientific Plenary, which also will include ASAM award winners, leaders in the addiction medicine field, a welcome to Austin from TXSAM Chapter President Jason Powers, MD, and a special recap of the Shatterproof Challenge from CEO Gary Mendell.

The interactive nature of this year’s conference also translates into several mentorship and networking opportunities. During registration, longtime ASAM members will be on hand to pair younger members with those who are more tenured. Also see below for several refreshment breaks, lunches, and evening events to network with colleagues.

ASAM is teaming up with three federal agencies and one international organization in four Collaborative Sessions. Look for two on Saturday—one with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the other with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). On Sunday, the NIAAA will offer one session, while the International Society of Addiction Medicine and NIDA will offer another.

During and after the conference, you can expand your learning in two ways. With the new e-Learning Center, view past presentations and simplify the CME certificate process. With the conference mobile app, access all the presentations on your Apple iOS, Anroid, or Kindle device.

“It is important for ASAM to have these collaborations so we can work together to advance our knowledge, awareness, and, with hope, funding for addiction treatment. We all need each other,” Dr. Fingerhood said.

The fun kicked off Thursday when about 70 determined individuals rappelled 22 stories down the side of the Hilton Austin Hotel to raise funds and public awareness in the field of addiction medicine. The daylong event was followed by the Exhibit Hall Welcome Reception and Meet & Eat Dutch Treat Dinners, which return Saturday evening. Check out other fun events planned for the remainder of the week below. To register for any of the fun events listed below, be sure to use the bulletin boards located adjacent to the ASAM registration table.


  • 6 to 7 am: Morning Fun Walk/Run, Hilton Austin, Lobby

Join your colleagues and kick off the day with an energizing walk or run of your choice. Guides will lead participants around designated routes. Interested participants should sign up on site near ASAM Registration. 

  • 6 to 7 am: Morning Yoga/Mediation, Hilton Austin, 8th Floor Pool Deck

Join your colleagues for a morning of downward dogs and warrior poses. All levels are welcome—from novice to advanced (mats will be provided). Interested participants should sign up on site near ASAM Registration. Classes will be limited to 40 participants (first-come, first-served).

  • 10 to 10:30 am: Refreshment Break in the Exhibit Hall, Austin Grand Ballroom, Sixth Floor
  • Noon to 2 pm: Lunch in the Exhibit Hall, Austin Grand Ballroom, Sixth Floor
  • 3 to 4 pm: Ice Cream Novelties & Networking Reception, Exhibit Hall

Visit with exhibitors while sampling a selection of ice cream novelties.

  • 5:30 to 7:30 pm: The ASAM Rodeo Reception, Foyer, Sixth Floor

Put on your blue jeans, and grab your boots and 10-gallon hat. Kick up your heels and enjoy a down-home Texas reception while showing off your best dance steps. Get ready to have a rip roarin’ time with good music, good food, and good fun.


  • 6 to 7 am: Morning Fun Walk/Run, Hilton Austin, Lobby

See above for details.

  • 6 to 7 am: Morning Yoga/Mediation, Room 412, Fourth Floor

See above for details.

  • 7 to 8 am: Continental Breakfast, Governors Ballroom AB Foyer, Fourth Floor
  • 9:30 to 11 am: Refreshment Break in the Exhibit Hall, Austin Grand Ballroom, Sixth Floor
  • 12:30 to 2:30 pm: ASAM Awards Luncheon, Governors Ballroom A-C, Fourth Floor

$75 per person

Draw inspiration from the outstanding accomplishments presented by this year’s ASAM annual award winners and celebrate the 2014 Diplomates of ASAM. Those who wish to attend will need to purchase a ticket at Registration.

  • 1 to 2:30 pm: Brown Bag Lunch & Terrace Chat, Hilton Austin, 6th Floor Terrace

For those unable to attend the ASAM Annual Awards Luncheon, bring your brown bag lunch and chat with colleagues while enjoying the view and engaging in interesting conversation with peers to discuss whatever is on your mind.

  • 6 to 7:30 pm: Meet & Eat—Dutch Treat Dinners, Hilton Austin Lobby

Don’t dine alone—enjoy a casual Dutch Treat dinner with colleagues led by an ASAM Ambassador. Choose from a number of unique Austin eateries and different cuisines to meet new friends as you get a taste of the town. Interested participants should sign up on site near ASAM Registration. (Dinner is at your own cost—not covered by ASAM).

  • 8 to 10 pm: ASAM Movie Night—Featuring The Hungry Heart, Governors Ballroom E, Fourth Floor

The Hungry Heart provides an intimate look at the often hidden world of prescription drug abuse through the world of Vermont pediatrician Fred Holmes, who works with patients struggling with this disease. Enjoy popcorn and refreshments as you watch the film and stay for a lively discussion following the movie with director and ASAM 2015 Media Award Winner, Bess O’Brien; special guest Raina Lowell, one of the women featured in the film; and ASAM moderators, Todd Mandell, MD, Northern New England Chapter President, and Geoffrey Kane, MD, MPH, FASAM, Chief of Addiction Services, Brattleboro Retreat.


  • 7 to 8 am: Continental Breakfast, Governors Ballroom Foyer, Fourth Floor
  • 9:30 to 10 am: Refreshment Break, Governors Ballroom Foyer, Fourth Floor

Rappelling Event Raises Funds, Awareness About Addiction

D1-Shatterproof 4

Penny Mills, MBA, ASAM Executive Vice President/CEO, puts her faith in her harness as she prepares to rappel down the side of the Austin Hilton Hotel Thursday.

About 70 determined individuals rappelled 22 stories down the side of the Hilton Austin Hotel in ASAM’s Shatterproof Challenge Thursday. What inspired them to take a plunge from such a height? They sought to help end the stigma of addiction and raise funds for prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Mark Schwartz, MD, FAAFP, FASAM, who has been in recovery 25 years, said that just as early sobriety can be a scary time for people in recovery, so can rappelling down the side of a building.

“The Shatterproof Challenge was a great way to step up—or in this case down—to raise awareness about the availability and importance of treatment for addition. My recovery has been profoundly rewarding, and I know that without the benefit of treatment and support I would not have had such a positive outcome. One step at a time and one day at a time, we can work toward a rewarding goal,” said Dr. Schwartz, a member of the ASAM Board of Directors and Medical Director of Inpatient Detox Services at Princeton (New Jersey) House Behavioral Health.

ASAM and Shatterproof combined forces to bring this empowering event to fight addiction to ASAM Annual Conference attendees. Shatterproof is a national organization committed to protecting children from addition to alcohol or other drugs and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by the disease.

D1-Shatterproof 3

It’s a long way down as participants make their way down the side of the hotel.

For Jason Powers, MD, accepting the Shatterproof Challenge was natural because he said his core purpose is consistent with Shatterproof’s four strategic pillars:

  1. Unite and empower all Americans to fight this disease.
  2. Educate the public about the disease to end the stigma.
  3. Advocate for change in public policies to bring down barriers to effective prevention, treatment, and recovery.
  4. Fund research to identify and put into practice evidence-based programs and strategies.

“Like Shatterproof, I’ve dedicated the last several years of my life to nourish and empower addiction professionals to thrive so they can model what is ‘healthy’ and provide the best possible care instead of feeling shattered. I, too, have set out to do what I can to fill gaps in the treatment system because we owe those with addictions more than what they’ve been getting in general,” said Dr. Powers, author of Positive Recovery and Chief Medical Officer of the Right Step, a Texas-based addiction treatment center.

Another participant, Lizette Smith, who is in long-term recovery, said she was rappelling for her own sense of self.

“I feel like I’m pretty fearless, especially with everything I’ve gone through,” she said. “It was an awesome opportunity. I wanted to try to prove to myself that I have nothing to fear and that I have to trust in something,” said Smith, Chapter Lead of Young People in Recovery in Austin, Texas.

Gary Mendell founded Shatterproof in honor of his son, Brian, who struggled with the disease of addiction. For nearly 10 years, Mendell and his family exhaustively vetted rehab centers, therapies, and physicians in their search for support, guidance, and help. As the disease advanced, he said, they were distraught by the lack of readily available research and resources for families. Tragically in 2011, Brian took his life. He was 25, and 13 months clean.

In the months that followed, inspired by the compassion of his beloved late son, Mendell left his more than 25-year career as a business executive and set out to learn what could be done to prevent others from experiencing the heartbreaking loss and destruction of this insidious disease. He founded Shatterproof—originally known as Brian’s Wish—with a personal commitment of $5 million and the goal of transforming the way addiction is prevented and treated, as well as ending the stigma associated with addiction.

Mendell, who took part in 14 Shatterproof Challenges that attracted 1,000 participants across the country last year, said Thursday’s participants had worked to raise $1,000 or more each, with 100 percent of funds raised going to Shatterproof and ASAM programs.

“When I launched this organization, I knew we had to call attention to this horrific situation. Each day, 350 people die because of addiction, and it doesn’t have the public discourse that it deserves. I wanted to bring people together and empower them around this cause,” Mendell said.

The Shatterproof Challenge is a metaphor for successful recovery, he said.

“The hardest step is the first step. After that, you rappel down step by step, always looking at the sky until your feet hit the ground. You have rope volunteers and professionals, family, and friends cheering you on and supporting you,” said Mendell, whose organization will double its rappelling challenges this year.

In 2015, 100 percent of funds raised by Shatterproof will focus on four initiatives:

  1. Increase the number of state-level campaigns to pass legislation that reduces the number of deaths from overdose, such as Good Samaritan laws, expanded access to naloxone, mandatory use of state prescription drug monitoring programs, and prescriber education. Shatterproof has already helped to pass legislation in Kentucky and West Virginia, and continues to concentrate on Florida and Connecticut.
  2. Expand the use of SBIRT, a screening and intervention program for young adults to reduce the number of young adults who develop the disease of addiction.
  3. Reduce the stigma of addiction and raise funds for its prevention, treatment, and recovery.
  4. Educate families through a nationwide Shatterproof Ambassador Program.

“There is no other organization in the United States that I’m more proud to be affiliated with than the American Society of Addiction Medicine,” Mendell said. “I’m just honored to be associated with an organization whose mission is to advance the science around addiction medicine. I’m appreciative of all the work that ASAM does. I’m truly honored to partner with ASAM, and I know my son is honored through me.”

An online photo album is available through Shatterproof.

Three Addiction Leaders to Speak at Opening Scientific Plenary

The directors of two U.S. government agencies that interact with the addiction medicine community, and former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy will be the featured speakers Friday during the Opening Scientific Plenary. In addition, two of those speakers offer the perspective of being in recovery from addiction.

The Opening Scientific Plenary will be presented from 8:30 to 10 am in Governor’s Ballroom A-C, Fourth Floor. Also during the session, several ASAM award winners will be recognized.

“I think all three of these speakers are going to give our members a window to the public debate and discussion in the field that will be going on in the coming years,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA.

Michael P. Botticelli

Michael P. Botticelli

The first speaker will be Michael P. Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) since February. Previously, he was ONDCP Deputy Director under Gil Kerlikowske and became acting director in March 2014. Botticelli is the first director of the agency to be in recovery for substance use disorder. He is expected to discuss ONDCP plans to reform the response to substance use, focusing on overdose prevention, medication-assisted treatment, and criminal justice reform.

“He has a vast understanding of the field from his extensive work with the public. We are excited to have him here,” Dr. Gitlow said. “It is unusual to have a standing director of ONDCP to be present at any medical professional society, so this is a real opportunity to hear what the direction of the ONDCP is going to be going forward. He also is pretty new in this position, so some of his feelings and opinions are just coming to light, which is a great opportunity for us.”

George F. Koob, PhD

George F. Koob, PhD

The second speaker will be George F. Koob, PhD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) since January 2014 and former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Addiction Medicine. He will receive the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award and present “Reward, Stress and Addiction: Two Faces of Janus.” His lecture will explore how reward and stress neurocircuitry of the brain changes during the course of the addiction cycle, resulting in compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

“We are excited to hear Dr. Koob because he is very familiar with ASAM’s positions and policies, and how those might be worked into some of the research directions NIAAA promotes over the coming years,” Dr. Gitlow said.

Patrick J. Kennedy

Patrick J. Kennedy

The final speaker is Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Founder of the Kennedy Forum, and son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy, who is in long-term recovery from addiction, will discuss the importance of the Mental Health Parity Act, how it could be enforced, and the role of addiction medicine in the nation’s health care system.

“Patrick Kennedy has background in addiction that is both personal and in the public interest,” Dr. Gitlow said. “This is a wonderful chance to hear words of wisdom about the direction the country is taking in terms of marijuana right now.”