Med-Sci Reflects Hot Topics Keeping Addiction Medicine in the News


Thursday’s Pain and Addiction Course drew a standing-room-only crowd for its in-depth examination of buprenorphine.

From marijuana legalization and decriminalization to opioid addiction and overdose to issues related to women’s health, addiction medicine faces many hot-button issues, and they all will be addressed at the 45th ASAM Medical-Science Conference over the next three days.

“In general, the conference is a real opportunity for networking and for all of us to get together, but this has been a tricky past year in terms of the degree to which the organization has been in the public light,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA. “We’ve been there from the perspective of a near-constant media blast of marijuana-related issues. We’ve been there almost constantly in terms of the opioid prescribing epidemic, and now the increased utilization of heroin.

“You can tie that into the marijuana policy session on Saturday and opioid prescribing that will be discussed at the President’s Symposium. We are very excited about our conference because this will give addiction doctors the opportunity to obtain that education and to interact with one another to make sure we are on the same page with respect to how we approach these important issues in the year to come.”

Gavin Bart, MD, PhD, FASAM, ABAM Diplomate, Chair of the Med-Sci Program Committee, agreed that the conference addresses a variety of important issues that go beyond the use of medications in treatment.

“We have a well-balanced program that talks about prevention, behavioral approaches to treatment, quality improvements, and patient satisfaction,” he said. “We have a program covering the spectrum of what is addiction medicine. We will have award winners recognized for their long-standing accomplishments, as well as the young investigators. This year we will have more papers being presented, which is a way of doing more rapid communication for data generated by ASAM members.”

For Michael Fingerhood, MD, Vice Chair of the Med-Sci Program Committee, another important aspect of the conference is an emphasis to take different approaches to make education sessions more valuable.

“We tried to make things more practical and have the learning be more interactive than passive,” he said. “We hope that more workshops have audience participation. We also want the conference to be more research-focused, which is why we have more paper sessions than in the past.”

Friday Highlights

The diversity of the program is evident from the start, with Friday’s Opening Scientific Plenary, where Shelly Greenfield, MD, MPH, FASAM, will receive the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award. Her lecture, “Gender Differences in Addiction: Implications for Women’s Addiction Treatment,” sets the tone for a greater emphasis on women’s issues. The plenary also will feature representatives from NIAAA, NIDA, and SAMHSA discussing their agencies’ research, policy, and treatment initiatives.

Other Friday sessions of note are: Symposium 1, “There’s an App for That! Using Technology in Addiction Prevention and Treatment”; Course 1, “Hot Topics in FDA Regulations and Pharmacotherapy Research that Impact Patient Care”; and a two-part presentation in Symposium 2A and 2B, “Update on Women’s Issues.”

“The NIAAA update on women’s issues is a highlight not only because of the topic, but partnering with NIAAA means we are getting access to some of the best and most critical information available,” Dr. Bart said.

Saturday Highlights

Saturday highlights include: The ASAM Public Policy Plenary, “Public Health Implications of Marijuana Legalization”; the President’s Symposium, “Addiction Medicine Today”; Symposium 6A and 6B, “Development Biologics to Treat Substance Use Disorders: An Update for Clinicians”; Symposium 9, “CFR42.2 and the EMR: Necessary Protection or Barrier to Coordinated Care?” a Collaborative Workshop with the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, “Addressing the Opioid Addiction and Overdose Epidemic: Targeting the Prescriber”; and ASAM Movie Night, The Anonymous People.

Symposium 9 addresses the unique privacy protection for addiction patients under CFR42.2 in the era of electronic health records, Dr. Bart said.

“For almost 40 years, patients with addiction have had this special level of privacy protection, but do those protections need to be revisited to promote a better way of utilizing electronic health records and integrating addiction into primary care?” he asked.

Sunday Highlights

Med-Sci concludes Sunday with several interesting sessions: Symposium 10, “Introduction to Building Skills in Motivational Interviewing”; Symposium 11, “Marijuana: Addiction Physicians and the American Public 2014”; Workshop 7, “Lifelong Learning: Review of Articles for ABAM MOC Part 2”; and Course 7, “Work-up and Treatment of the Opioid-Addicted Pain Patient: Ground-Zero, Florida.”

“As addiction medicine is attempting to become a recognized board specialty, it means addiction doctors will have to participate in maintenance of certification (MOC) like physicians in other specialties,” Dr. Bart said in talking about the importance of Workshop 7. “This is a new thing for addiction medicine. ABAM will conduct a workshop to help people complete or better understand MOC Part 2 by going over some of the articles that all diplomates will be required to select from, and answer test questions. This is an opportunity to hear from the maintenance of certification committee about articles they selected and points they think are important about those articles.”