Med-Sci Highlights Expanded Role of Addiction Medicine

Two full-day courses, the Ruth Fox Course for Physicians and the Pain & Addiction Course, drew standing-room-only crowds Thursday at the start of the ASAM Med-Sci Conference.

Two full-day courses, the Ruth Fox Course for Physicians and the Pain & Addiction Course, drew standing-room-only crowds Thursday at the start of the ASAM Med-Sci Conference.

The 44th ASAM Medical-Scientific Conference opens today with a program highlighting the expanded role of the specialty as it shares its successes in combating addiction—in particular reaching out to primary care physicians—while also emphasizing the treatment of military veterans.

“We have some timely presentations regarding military medicine, upcoming health care reform, and issues about improving performance within the field of addiction medicine because we are entering into a world of pay-for-performance,” said Gavin Bart, MD, PhD, FASAM, Chair of the Med-Sci Program Committee. “But, as in every year, the highlights of Med-Sci include coming together to meet colleagues and exchanging information to learn together about updates in addiction.”

Among the hot topics covered during the conference will be the use of naloxone by the lay public to treat overdoses, new uses for buprenorphine beyond the treatment of opiate addiction, and advances in the treatment of hepatitis C, he said.

One area of emphasis is the treatment of military personnel and their families as they deal with the stress of more than a decade of fighting in the Middle East. Over the next three days, 10 educational sessions will help addiction specialists deal with the fallout from prescription drug abuse and heavy alcohol use in the military population. Prescription drug misuse doubled between 2002 and 2005 and tripled between 2005 and 2008, according to a U.S. Department of Defense survey.

Courses focused on military issues are highlighted in the program with an icon that looks like sergeant stripes. Five courses Friday address symmetry and asymmetry in addiction medicine, gender differences in the military, combat trauma and addictions, dealing with acute pain, and the treatment of military personnel and their families. Sessions Saturday address the U.S. drug crisis, opioid addiction in treating pain, and meeting the needs of veterans in the community. A final session Sunday discusses substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because it is estimated that two-thirds of persons with addictions see a primary care physician or urgent care physician every six months, ASAM is reaching out to primary care professionals to help them recognize and treat addiction. A highlight of this effort is Symposium 10, “The Addiction Medicine/Primary Care Interface: Models of Integrated Care,” presented Sunday.

In addition, The American Academy of Family Physicians has approved 28.75 prescribed credits that can be earned by primary care professionals during Med-Sci. Sessions aimed at primary care professionals include:

  • Friday: The Opening Scientific Plenary, Symposia 1 and 2, Workshop 1, and Course 3
  • Saturday: The Policy Plenary Session, Symposia 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9, Workshops 5 and 6, Courses 7 and 8, and Component Session 6
  • Sunday: Group III Paper Sessions, Symposia 10 and 11, and Workshops 9, 10, 11, and 12

Traditional highlights of the Med-Sci Conference are a prominent part of the program, addressing subjects of interest to the field of addiction, Dr. Bart said.

“Always important are the sessions sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),” Dr. Bart said. “This year, NIDA is sponsoring an all-day symposium on developments in new medications and uses for existing medications to treat addiction, more specifically buprenorphine. NIAAA is sponsoring an all-day symposium providing updates on some of the science behind Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step recovery programs.”

Plenary sessions will feature renowned speakers delivering important addresses.

At today’s Opening Scientific Plenary, Joseph Westermeyer, MD, PhD, MPH, the recipient of the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award, will present “Symmetry and Asymmetry in Addiction Medicine: The Balance Between You, Your Patient, and Your Setting.” He is Professor of Psychiatry and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota and Medical Director of the Addictive Disorders Service at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

At Saturday’s Policy Plenary, keynote speaker H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, CAS, FASAM, will present “U.S. Drug Crisis—The Addiction Treatment Gap.” Dr. Clark will discuss how physicians can work with federal agencies to expand access to treatment, and then join a panel of policy experts to discuss efforts to expand access to treatment through expanded benefits under the Affordable Care Act. He is Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Also on Saturday is the ASAM Annual Awards Luncheon, featuring Nora Volkow, MD, delivering the John P. McGovern, MD, Award and Lecture on Addiction and Society. She is Director of NIDA and has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. Several other awards will be presented during the luncheon.

“This is important because it is an award that goes to communication to the public regarding issues related to addiction,” Dr. Bart said. “One of our top scientists in the world related to addiction winning this award recognizes that science is being communicated directly to the public.”

The awards luncheon also will be an event where the new class of ABAM Diplomates—the largest ever—will receive their certificates from Dr. Volkow. For these Diplomates and all ABAM Diplomates, the CME from the Med-Sci Conference has been approved by ABAM to meet its Part II MOC CME requirements. “We are delighted that the Med-Sci Conference can offer this additional benefit to its attendees,” Dr. Bart said.

Make sure you stop by the registration table to purchase tickets for the lunch.