Friday Conference News

Atlanta Serves Up Some of the Finest Fare in the Country

Where are the good restaurants in Atlanta? This inquiry was put to the Georgia Society of Addiction Medicine, and what resulted were recommendations from your Atlanta colleagues for a dozen fine eating establishments within walking distance or a reasonable cab ride. Call ahead for hours of operation, and visit the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website for special discounts:

  • BLT Steak (W Atlanta Downtown), 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., (404) 577-7601. Expect excellent food and terrific atmosphere. Signature entreés include cuts of prime, certified black angus and American wagyu beef, and a selection of fresh fish. The October 2010 Haute Living magazine named BLT Steak among the “Top Five Steakhouses in Atlanta.”
  • Two Urban Licks, 820 Ralph McGill Blvd., (404) 522-4622. Known for its incredible food and dining atmosphere, Two Urban Licks serves wood-fired meats and fish from a high-energy, open kitchen featuring fiery American food.
  • Kevin Rathbun’s Steak, 154 Krog St., (404) 524-5600. The adventuresome menu features smoked salmon with chipotle cream cheese, lamb served with grape chile jam and goat cheese, pork shoulder with baked cheddar macaroni, and bronzed sea scallops over smoked gouda grits.
  • 5 Napkin Burger, 990 Piedmont Ave. N.E., (404) 685-0777. Named as a Zagat “Most Popular,” this casual dining establishment serves gourmet burgers. In addition to the house burger topped with gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and a rosemary aioli, diners may also select either the cheddar bacon burger, Italian turkey burger, lamb kofta burger, veggie burger, the inside out burger, or burger salad.
  • ONE Midtown Kitchen, 559 Dutch Valley Road, (404) 892-4111. Earning rave reviews from Zagat to Atlanta Magazine, ONE serves high-energy American cuisine with gourmet flair.
  • SHOUT, 1197 Peachtree St. N.E., (404) 846-2000. SHOUT serves cuisine that showcases flavors from around the world. Entreés include everything from the Mediterranean fish bowl to Scottish Salmon.
  • South City Kitchen, 1144 Crescent Ave. N.E., (404) 873-7358. This dining establishment serves contemporary Southern cuisine with a trendy twist, featuring dishes such as shrimp and grits, buttermilk fried chicken, she-crab soup, fried green tomatoes, and banana pudding.
  • Iberian Pig, 121 Sycamore St., Decatur, Ga., (404) 371-8800. A bit farther afield from downtown or midtown, GSAM also recommends this modern Spanish restaurant, known for serving the traditional cured meats and cheeses of Spain, unique tapas dishes, ensaladas, and flatbreads.
  • La Mojito – Cubian, 125 10th St. (Hotel Midtown), (404) 892-4440. Expect classic Cuban cuisine and innovative dishes, such as mariscos in chipotle and the Buena Vista chop.
  • Nan Thai, 1350 Spring St., (404) 870-9933. The finest in Thai cuisine is served up in an elegant setting. Menu choices include everything from braised lamb tenderloin to pan-fried Asian whitefish.
  • Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1100 Peachtree St. N.E., (404) 475-2277. Oceanaire serves top-of-the-catch fish from the world’s oceans. Menu classics include everything from stuffed cod Florentine to Chesapeake Bay-style crab cakes.
  • Einstein’s, 1077 Juniper St., (404) 876-7925. This full-service restaurant in the heart of midtown offers innovative re-creations of Southern comfort classics and a diverse menu of many choices.

Question of the Day: What Do you Like Most About the Med-Sci Conference?


“Med-Sci’s scientific/clinical presentations are great, but what I like most about the meeting is the opportunity to network with other physicians in addiction medicine. Med-Sci has allowed me to develop connections with addiction docs worldwide. We may only meet face-to-face once a year, but we always have each other’s backs.”

Penelope P. Ziegler, M.D.
Richmond, Va.

Wunsch “The Medical Scientific Conference provides needed intellectual stimulation by addressing broad areas of addiction medicine practice and research, particularly new and effective treatment strategies. As Co-Editor of JAM, the conference is a venue to find potential authors of original research and identify topics for clinical reviews and cases.”

Martha J Wunsch M.D., FAAP, FASAM
Blacksburg, Va.

Alley “My sole practice has been in addiction medicine since 1985 in a facility as the only physician. Med-sci conferences gave me the opportunity to confer with colleagues in the field. The sharing of ideas along with the opportunity to get  information on the advancements in this field are invaluable.”

Terry Alley, M.D., FASAM
Nashville, Tenn.

Haning  “This is the place that I can mingle:  be recharged by my incredibly smart colleagues, be physically with people whom I respect and of whom I am very fond, break bread with them. This society has always accepted me warmly, more than any other of which I am a member.”

Bill Haning M.D., FASAM
Honolulu, HI



ASAM News Briefs

The following exhibitors are having drawings during the Med-Sci Conference:

  • Las Vegas Recovery Center will be raffling an iPod shuffle in at its booth (No. 81) at 4:30 p.m. today.
  • Creative Care Malibu will be giving away an iPad 2 (wi-fi) as a grand prize throughout the conference at its booth (No. 91). CCM also will be giving out 12 of Dr. Khaleghi’s book, The Anatomy of Addiction, as well 12 of the pen/laser pointer/ USB drive combos.
  • Fisher Wallace Laboratories will be raffling off a free Fisher Wallace Cranial Stimulator at its booth, (No. 80). Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation has been used to effectively treat addiction and related symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia since 1991, as an FDA-cleared methodology.
  • Stop by the Aton Center booth (No. 64) to drop off a business card and be entered to win a $50 Starbucks card.
  • Stop By the ASAM booth (No. 9) to check out ASAM-branded merchandise for purchase, update your member profile, learn how to enter your CME credit hours online, see additional courses available for purchase and CME credit through the e-Live Learning Center, register for the Review Course in September, and enter in a raffle to win an Amazon Kindle preloaded with Principles of Addiction Medicine
  • Meet ASAM board members at the ASAM booth (No. 9) during the following hours:
    10:30 to 11 a.m. today
    1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today
    9:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday
    2:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday

Study Focuses on Substance Abuse Among Health Care Professionals

Substance-related impairment among health care professionals comes with significant consequences for patient safety, so appropriate recognition and intervention for substance abuse is essential within this group. Lisa Merlo, Ph.D., M.P.E., Chief of the Division of Undergraduate Education, and Director of Psychotherapy Training, Psychiatry Residency Program, the University of Florida, Gainesville, will present her findings on this subject in Poster 16, “Quality of Life Among Healthcare Professionals in Recovery,” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today in the Galleria Exhibit Hall.

Results of her study may help shorten the interval between the point at which a health care professional develops a substance-related problem and the point at which he or she enters treatment.

“Early treatment can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality,” she says. “Unfortunately, health care professionals experience obstacles to seeking treatment, including fears regarding the potential for negative impact on their careers and financial stability. I hypothesized that health care professionals in recovery would actually report improved quality of life during recovery compared to active addiction, and I anticipated that such data might give hope to health care professionals who would benefit from seeking treatment.”

Dr. Merlo, who also directs her institution’s Addiction Medicine Public Health Research Group, says that in the summer of 2010, she and her colleagues conducted a survey of health care professionals monitored by Florida’s impaired professionals program to assess this important topic. In general, she says, the professionals reported significantly improved quality of life across all domains since initiating abstinence from substance use.

“It was noteworthy that improvements in family functioning, work/career, and financial stability were significantly greater for professionals in sustained recovery compared to those in early recovery, suggesting that quality of life continues to improve as the professionals adapt to a sober lifestyle,” she says.

Dr. Merlo says that it may seem obvious to addiction treatment professionals that participation in addiction treatment programs is not associated with long-term, negative consequences for health care professionals, but it is important to produce data documenting that fact.

Dr. Merlo says that health care professionals with substance-related impairments remain an understudied population that needs attention.

“Addiction treatment for health care professionals may save their families, careers, and financial stability, in addition to improving their overall quality of life. If you suspect that a health care professional suffers from addiction, referring him or her to get treatment is unlikely to have long-term negative consequences and may save his or her life.”

Web-based SBIRT Curriculum Trains Primary Care Physicians

Bradley Tanner, M.D.

Bradley Tanner, M.D.

To bring more primary care physicians up to speed in addiction medicine, ASAM recently introduced a new online education curriculum in partnership with Clinical Tools, Inc., on Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). The curriculum is located at

The new training emerged from a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) contract awarded to Clinical Tools, Inc. (CTI). This new Web-based resource focuses on the areas of alcohol and tobacco and includes other substances of abuse as well, says Psychiatrist and CTI President Bradley Tanner, M.D. In addition to 4 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ , several types of continuing education credit are available for the program, including up to four prescribed credit(s) for the American Academy of Family Physicians, and credits for nurses and certified counselors. It also meets the New York State OASAS training requirement for SBIRT.

“This is a tool designed specifically for physicians outside the field of addiction medicine who want to advance their understanding and treatment in the patients they see,” Dr. Tanner says. “It’s important to recognize that technology can and should serve as a stable framework that supports researchers and clinicians in their roles.”

The CME activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the essential areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) by Clinical Tools, Inc.

While developing the online SBIRT training curriculum, CTI evaluated the program with 74 primary care providers. Significant improvements in knowledge and clinical skills assessments were found, Dr. Tanner notes. Additionally, nearly all participants intended to increase their use of SBIRT in cases related to tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and to follow up with patients after brief interventions or referral.

CTI develops scalable, usable, and broad Internet-based tools to improve the ability of physicians and other health care providers to care for patients. Clinical Tools, Inc., based in Chapel Hill, NC, is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians, and hosts and supports online training curricula, including and ASAM’s DATA 2000-Qualifying Buprenorphine Training Program, Dr. Tanner is trained in technological and curriculum development, evaluative research and partnerships, as well as being board-certified in psychiatry and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He was the Principal Investigator for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded contract that developed this product.

Both ASAM and Dr. Tanner advocate the Web-based skills training curriculum as an effective method of conferring the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy successful SBIRT interventions in primary care. Dr. Tanner says he plans to conduct future research on the success of the curriculum with specific medical specialties, such as OB/GYN, geriatric, and acute care, tailoring the tools as appropriate.

“The principles of SBIRT are effective across all areas of medicine, whether it’s in an urgent care setting or primary health clinic,” Dr. Tanner says. “So if we can arm a larger population within the medical community with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective, we’re helping patients and we’re holding down costs.”

When more primary care physicians master skills in SBIRT through the online ASAM-CTI tool, they will acquire greater confidence in knowing which patients should be referred to specialists for more extensive treatment Dr. Tanner says.

Dr. Tanner will provide a complete overview of the research behind the ASAM-CTI online training curriculum during his presentation of Poster 29, “Evaluation of a Web-based SBIRT Training Curriculum for Primary Care Providers: Improving Physicians’ Competence in Addiction Through Online Training,” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today in the Galleria Exhibit Hall.

The training was produced solely with funding from NIDA; a $75 user fee supports ongoing development and delivery of the training. Further information on the program is available at Dr. Tanner says he hopes both the website and poster session will help primary care physicians understand the use of SBIRT’s benefits across all health care settings and the availability this new Web-based training tool to improve their knowledge and clinical skills in the area of addiction medicine.

“ASAM has a vision of continually enhancing education,” Dr. Tanner says. “This new resource will advance its objectives and overall mission.”

Other ASAM Med-Sci Conference sessions from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday will address SBIRT and serve as valuable sources of additional information: Symposium 9″Screening and Brief Interventions of Adolescents and Young Adults in General Medical Settings: Scientific Updates and Clinical Implications” in Grand Salon West, Salon E, and Course 8, “Biology, Buddha, and the Big Book” in Rooms 206-207. – See more at:

ASAM Introduces the Interactive Exam Preparation (IEP)

Paul Earley, M.D., FASAM

Paul Earley, M.D., FASAM

ASAM adds its new Interactive Exam Preparation (IEP) to the list of options to prepare for American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) certification. This new resource, developed in partnership with Enforme Interactive, Inc., offers targeted literature, sample test questions, overview lectures, and more to better prepare for the 2012 certification exam. ASAM Board of Director-at-Large Paul Earley, M.D., FASAM, Earley Consultancy, LLC, Atlanta, helped develop the online resource as a supplement to ASAM’s conference-style Review Course in Addiction Medicine which is offered every two years. This year’s Review Course in Addiction Medicine will take place September 20-22 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conference Center in Nashville and access to the IEP will be included for those who register for the course.

“The IEP is a great addition to ASAM’s education curriculum, but it doesn’t replace the Nashville course. It does, however, provide individuals with self-guided education, and the opportunity to receive interactive feedback on how they’re doing with their learning and preparation,” Dr. Earley says. “I would encourage both forms of preparation.”

ASAM’s board review course has long been considered an essential primer for physicians and other health care professionals who are preparing for a career in addiction medicine. Likewise, it’s an effective resource for other primary care providers working to improve their skills in identifying and managing patients with substance use disorders. ASAM’s traditional board review course typically features three days of speakers, access to a comprehensive print and electronic syllabus, and an opportunity to network with more than 3,000 attendees.

ASAM’s review courses have provided a solid foundation of scientific knowledge for addiction medicine, Dr. Earley notes. With the addition of the new IEP, the self-guided curriculum will allow individuals to dig deeper into the field. In its launch year, the ASAM IEP will feature 20 test preparation modules, which will include opportunities to problem-solve “what if” scenarios, review case studies, and follow links to even more resources. The IEP will also provide self-assessments, multiple-choice questions, remediation suggestions, a personal learning plan, and a learning journal. Every two years, ASAM will introduce additional modules.

“Certainly, part of the reason we introduced the IEP was to meet the changing needs of today’s busy professionals. But we really view this as complementary to our September board review course in Nashville,” Dr. Earley says.

In both instances, the Nashville board review course and the IEP will help individuals demonstrate knowledge of current clinical practice across the spectrum of addiction medicine by understanding numerous components, from the neurobiology of addiction to managing co-occurring psychiatric disorders. For those who cannot attend the Nashville review course, the IEP will be offered as a separate product on the ASAM website in May. Additionally, ASAM provides audio files of the entire course synced with the course slides and posted to the ASAM e-Live Learning Center. Registration for the course is available here at the ASAM Med-Sci Conference. Just visit the ASAM Exhibit Booth (No. 9) in the Exhibit Hall to register for the course.

“It really takes a different skill set to be an emergency room physician with knowledge of addiction medicine, and ASAM realized that early on,” Dr. Earley says. “We are proud to have recognition of this field through board certification. The addition of the IEP demonstrates our commitment to providing quality training in the area of addiction medicine.”

ASAM to Honor Outstanding Recipients at Awards Luncheon

David R. Gastfriend, M.D.

David R. Gastfriend, M.D.

Richard Saitz, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, FASAM

Richard Saitz, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, FASAM

ASAM will confer its most prestigious awards to deserving recipients during the Awards Luncheon from 12:15 to 2 p.m. Saturday in Grand Ballroom East, Ballroom AB. Tickets are required for attendance and may be purchased at the registration desk until 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Lecture Award will go to Richard Saitz, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, FASAM, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, and Director, Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit, the Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health and Boston Medical Center.

J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D

J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D

A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D

A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D

In addition to being honored at the luncheon, Dr. Saitz will present his lecture, “Screening and Brief Intervention for Unhealthy Alcohol and Other Drug Use: Where the Evidence Is…and Isn’t,” from 9 to 10:30 a.m. today in Grand Ballroom East, Ballroom AB.

The John P. McGovern M.D. Award and Lecture on Addiction and Society will go to David R. Gastfriend, M.D., a Newton, Mass., addiction psychiatrist. This award honors an individual who has made highly meritorious contributions to public policy, treatment, research, or prevention that has increased our understanding of the relationship of addiction and society.

Judith and Bill Moyers

Judith and Bill Moyers

The Public Policy Award will go to A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., for outstanding contributions in advancing addiction treatment policy, including formulating the National Drug Control Strategy implemented by President Obama, supporting addiction treatment research, and service as Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is currently Chief Executive Officer, the Treatment Research Institute, Philadelphia.

The ASAM Medical-Scientific Program Committee Award will go to J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D., Faculty Research Scientist, Department of Family Medicine Medical Center, Central Georgia, Macon, Ga., for earning the highest rating of scientific merit for his abstract “Comparing the Drinkers Pyramid to Prevalence of At-Risk Use and Alcohol Use Disorders in Emergency Department and Urgent Care Settings.”

Elizabeth F. Howell, M.D., DFAPA, FASAM

Elizabeth F. Howell, M.D., DFAPA, FASAM

Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A.

Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A.

The Annual Media Award will go to Bill and Judith Moyers for their television series Close to Home, a highly acclaimed five-part PBS series providing a comprehensive, unflinching look about the science, treatment, prevention, and politics of addiction.

The Young Investigator Award will go to Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A., Researcher at the State University of New York (SUNY) Primary Care Research Institute, Buffalo, for her abstract, “A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Long-Term Analgesic Effectiveness of Six Months Buprenorphine and Methadone Treatment in Patients with Chronic Non-malignant Pain and Opioid Addiction.” This award is presented for the best abstract submitted by an author who is within five years receipt of a doctoral degree.

Bonnie B. Wilford, M.S.

Bonnie B. Wilford, M.S.

Gerald D. Shulman, M.A., MAC, FACATA

Gerald D. Shulman, M.A., MAC, FACATA

The ASAM Annual Award will go to two individuals—Elizabeth F. Howell, M.D., DFAPA, FASAM, and Gerald D. Shulman, M.A., MAC, FACATA—for outstanding contributions to the growth and vitality of ASAM, for thoughtful leadership in the field, and for deep understanding of the art and science of addiction medicine. Dr. Howell is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, Salt Lake City, and Dr. Shulman is President of Shulman & Associates, an addiction and mental health training consultant in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Presidential Award will go to Bonnie B. Wilford, M.S., in recognition of her outstanding dedication and service; her notable achievements in promoting education and training in Addiction Medicine; her work on ASAM publications such as the Principles of Addiction Medicine, ASAM Patient Placement Criteria, and as Editor of ASAM News, as well as her many other significant contributions demonstrating her wisdom, generosity, and respect for people suffering from addiction.

The 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Science and Service Awards go to Marc Fishman, M.D., FASAM, Mountain Manor Treatment Center, Baltimore; Patricia Pade, M.D., Co-Occurring Disorders Clinic, Albuquerque, N.M.; Joseph O. Merrill M.D., M.P.H., Project ROAM/ECHO, Seattle; and Amanda Wilson, M.D., CleanSlate Centers, Northampton, Mass. They received the awards for their excellence in office-based opioid treatment using pharmacotherapy and other innovative approaches to enhance patient outcomes.

ASAM Fellows status will be conferred to Anthony P. Albanese, M.D.; Kelly J. Clark, M.D., M.B.A.; James W. Finch, M.D.; Walter D. Fitzhugh III, M.D., M.P.H.; Daniel M. Glick, M.D.; Erik W. Gunderson, M.D.; Phillip B. Hall, M.D.; Scott L. Hambleton, M.D.; Mark S. Jorrisch, M.D.; David C. Lott, M.D.; Steven M. Lynn, M.D.; Al J. Mooney III, M.D.; James P. O’Neill, M.D.; and Scott B. Smolar, D.O.

Ruth Fox Scholarship Recipients are Dustin DeYoung, M.D.; Brian Harahan, M.D., Ph.D.; Karsten Lunze, M.D., M.P.H.; Chinyere Ogbonna, M.D., M.P.H.; Joan M. Striebel, M.D.; and Christen Tibbs, M.D.

SUNY Researcher Wins Young Investigator Award

Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A.

Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A.

Anne Neumann, Ph.D., M.A., earned the ASAM 2012 Young Investigator Award for research exploring medication-assisted treatments for patients suffering from chronic, non-malignant pain and addiction to prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Dr. Neumann, researcher at the State University of New York (SUNY) Primary Care Research Institute, Buffalo, will receive the award during ASAM’s 2012 Awards Luncheon from noon to 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Grand Ballroom East, Ballroom AB.

She will also discuss her research from 3 to 5 p.m. today during Paper Session II, Grand Salon East, Salon A, in her presentation of Paper 7 “A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Long-Term Analgesic Effectiveness of Six Months Buprenorphine and Methadone Treatment in Patients with Chronic Non-malignant Pain and Opioid Addiction.” Her research involves a randomized clinical trial comparing the long-term analgesic effects of six months of treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (experimental group) or methadone (active comparator) in patients with chronic pain who developed an addiction to their prescription opioids.

“We have a crisis in the United States concerning the abuse and overuse of prescription opioids,” Dr. Neumann says. “Unfortunately, physicians do not receive sufficient training in addiction during medical school. I hope this research will bring awareness to the need to consider medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. Additionally, we conducted this study in an outpatient office setting and therefore, outside a research lab, which I believe will be helpful in translating clinical research into practice.”

While prescribing opioids for chronic, non-malignant pain is common, up to 31 percent of chronic pain patients develop “aberrant medication-taking behavior,” Dr. Neumann says. “Prescription opioids are short-acting and are prescribed for acute pain.”

The standard of care for patients with chronic pain and opioid addiction described by Dr. Neumann involves detoxification from opioids, followed by counseling, abstinence, and treatment of pain with non-opioid medications. However, this is associated with high relapse rates, she notes. Methadone and buprenorphine are better alternatives to prescription opioids in these patients because they are long-acting opioids and replace the short-acting opioids, but don’t result in as much euphoria and abuse.

“Methadone and buprenorphine are effective in treating the separate conditions of chronic pain and addiction,” Dr. Neumann says. “Methadone can have serious side effects, such as potential of drug overdose and respiratory depression. Therefore, buprenorphine possesses a superior safety profile. However, research has not compared the two medications in chronic pain patients identified as having a substance use disorder.”

In her randomized trial, Dr. Neumann notes the primary outcome was analgesia (0- to 10-point scale) at six months. Other outcomes included retention in treatment, retention in the assigned medication group, illicit drug use (by self-report and urine toxicology), functioning, and side effects. She reports that at six months, daily buprenorphine or methadone treatment resulted in significant pain reduction compared to the start of the study. However, the analgesic effects of buprenorphine and methadone treatment did not differ.

Further, participants randomized to methadone reported significantly less use of illicit opioids than participants randomized to buprenorphine at six months, Dr. Neumann says. However, the two groups did not differ in alcohol use, cocaine use, and other drug use. There was no difference in treatment and medication retention, side effects, and functioning among participants randomized to buprenorphine or methadone. Although both daily methadone and buprenorphine treatment produce analgesia after six months of continuous treatment, methadone provides better long-term addiction outcomes than buprenorphine in chronic pain patients with coexistent opioid dependence.

“Unfortunately, most people will relapse after opioid detoxification, mostly because they have chronic pain,” Dr. Neumann says. “Methadone and buprenorphine are viable options because they reduce pain, but don’t produce the same degree of compulsive drug-taking behaviors compared to opioids. I hope that research will help physicians increase their knowledge about the epidemiology of addiction to prescription opioids in chronic pain patients, better understand treatment options for pain and addiction in these patients, and understand the research of the current study and implications of this study for addiction and pain management.”

ASAM’s Young Investigator Award is presented annually during the Society’s Medical Scientific Conference to a paper’s first author who is within five years of the completion of a medical residency or receipt of a doctoral degree.

Georgia Researcher Receives Program Committee Award

J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D.

J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D.

Researcher J. Aaron Johnson, Ph.D., landed the 2012 Medical-Scientific Program Committee Award for his study comparing the Drinkers Pyramid to rates of unhealthy alcohol use, including abuse and dependence, in emergency departments and urgent care settings.

Dr. Johnson, Faculty Research Scientist for the Department of Family Medicine, Medical Center of Central Georgia and Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, Ga., earned this award along with co-authors from the same institution, Alexandra Woycheck and J. Paul Seale, M.D. ASAM will present this prestigious award at the 2012 Awards Luncheon from noon to 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Grand Ballroom East, Ballroom AB. Dr. Johnson will discuss Paper 5 “Comparing the Drinkers Pyramid to Prevalence of At-risk Use and Alcohol Use Disorders in Emergency Depart­ment and Urgent Care Settings” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., today during Paper Session I in Grand Salon East, Salon A.

This research focuses on detecting at-risk drinking in patients admitted to various health care settings, Dr. Johnson notes.

“Nationally, more than 4.6 million emergency department visits each year are drug and alcohol related,” he says. “If we can begin to reduce just a small portion of these through our SBIRT work, then I think we have been successful. When we conduct screenings in emergency departments and urgent care settings in my area, for example, we find that more than one in five patients screen positive for at-risk alcohol and/or drug use.”

In his research, Dr. Johnson explains the common and accepted use of the Drinkers Pyramid in demonstrating the extent of alcohol-use risk levels within the U.S. population. While the largest segment is represented in the no-risk (nondrinkers) or low-risk categories, the Drinkers Pyramid indicates that 28 percent of the U.S. population is either at-risk for alcohol-related problems or is alcohol dependent.

The Drinkers Pyramid represents the U.S. population as a whole, Dr. Johnson says. Yet, little research exists comparing these statistics to the degree of alcohol use problems treated in various health care settings. For the purpose of making this comparison, his research involved collecting data from two Georgia emergency departments and three urgent care centers. Nearly 12,000 patients were screened in a large, urban emergency department, assessed using the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) and categorized, based on their scores, into areas of risk similar to those in the Drinkers Pyramid.

Of those patients, Dr. Johnson says, 32 percent screened at-risk or higher. In smaller Georgia markets, the team screened 21,559 emergency department patients and 1,244 urgent care patients. Twenty-one percent of ED patients were at-risk or higher, while 26 percent of urgent care patients were at-risk or higher, he notes.

The comparison yielded similar percentages to the Drinkers Pyramid. However, Dr. Johnson says the findings suggest some variation across settings, with large urban health care centers treating a higher number of at-risk alcohol users. All health care settings showed slightly lower percentages of possible dependence than the Drinkers Pyramid, he reports.

“This was a simple analysis, but the takeaway is important. We’re seeing the increasing value of SBIRT to effectively identify patients who may need minimal intervention to reduce alcohol use,” Dr. Johnson says. “There’s good evidence that drinking within healthy limits can significantly reduce risk of injury and many other alcohol-related health issues. Long term, it can result in significant health care cost savings through reductions in emergency department visits, trauma episodes, costly inpatient stays, etc. Many of the individuals we serve today won’t progress into long-term harmful alcohol use tomorrow.”

Attend Your State’s Chapter Meeting

Make plans to attend a state chapter meeting during the Annual Medical-Scientific Conference. All meetings will be in Room 201 unless otherwise noted.

10:30 to 11:30 a.m., Georgia Chapter Meeting
Noon to 1 p.m., Indiana Chapter Meeting
2:30 to 3 p.m., West Virginia Chapter Meeting
3 to 4 p.m.,  Tennessee Chapter Meeting
5 to 6 p.m., Region VIII Meeting (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming)

9 to 10 a.m., Ohio Chapter Meeting

9 to 10 a.m., New Jersey Chapter Meeting, Room 212
6 to 7 p.m., Massachusetts Chapter Meeting