Educating Prescribers a Key in Reducing Opioid Addiction, Overdose

Addiction physicians are increasingly being asked to help stem the rising tide of opioid addiction and overdose in their local communities. A special workshop Saturday has been developed to share strategies in this effort.

“Addressing the Opioid Addiction and Overdose Epidemic: Targeting the Prescriber,” a Collaborative Workshop developed by the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA), will be presented from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in Orlando Ballroom IV, Lower Level.

“We are going to talk about strategies to get opioid prescribers both in primary care and addiction treatment settings engaged in addressing the opioid overdose crisis. We will look at it in three different ways,” said Alexander Y. Walley, MD, MSc, ABAM Diplomate, a session organizer and speaker.

Daniel P. Alford, MD, MPH, FASAM, ABAM Diplomate, will discuss national efforts to educate physicians about how to safely prescribe opioids. He will discuss Boston University’s Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education program ( This program was developed to satisfy the extended-release/long-acting Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) education requirements issued by the Food and Drug Administration. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

“This educational effort is not for the purpose of eliminating opioid prescribing, but really making it safe,” Dr. Walley said. “The SCOPE of Pain online and live programs focus on using a risk-benefit framework when making decisions to initiate, modify, continue, or discontinue opioids when managing patients with severe chronic pain.”

Hillary Kunins, MD, MPH, MS, Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene, New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will review its efforts to proactively educate prescribers.

“Using overdose mortality, opioid prescribing data, and expert input, the department developed opioid prescribing guidelines for general use. In addition, they developed a targeted approach for prescribers in Staten Island, the New York borough with the highest opioid-analgesic involved overdose mortality rates and the highest rates and doses of prescribed opioids,” Dr. Walley said. Dr. Kunins also will share the department’s guidance for addressing risky drug use identified in the prescription-monitoring database.

Dr. Walley, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, will address the role of physicians in patient education.

“I will focus on educating patients to prevent opioid overdoses and how to manage them when they happen so they are not fatal,” he said. “I will talk about how to prescribe naloxone rescue kits.”

The speakers will start their presentations by talking about opioids prescribed for pain, but also discuss opioids prescribed for the treatment of addiction.

“This is a relevant public health issue because it is not just overdoses, it is addiction and it is connected to prescribing of opioids,” Dr. Walley said. “But it is more complicated than that. There has been more information coming out about the transition of patients from prescription opioids to heroin, and heroin overdoses. Communities are concerned about this issue.”

And when local communities want help addressing those concerns, they most likely will turn to addiction physicians.

“ASAM doctors are the local experts on addiction who people often turn to when they want to understand the prescription opioid problem,” Dr. Walley said. “We are going to explain what is being done at national and state levels, and what can be done in municipalities and communities to address this problem.”