New Guidelines for Preventing Substance Abuse

Story by: Beth Greenwood, RN

American College of Physicians issues new recommendations for preventing and treating substance abuse.

Substance abuse is on the rise in America. The American College of Physicians (ACP) notes that in 2014, 22.5 million people (including 15.8 million women) in the US needed treatment for substance abuse with drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, only 18 percent actually received treatment. The ACP has just issued new recommendations to help prevent and treat substance abuse disorders.

picture of a bunch of pills, capsules signifying substance abuseAlthough men are more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol than women, women face some particular risks when it comes to substance abuse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Smaller amounts of drugs used for a shorter time can trigger addiction in women.

Women may have more drug cravings and can be more likely to relapse after treatment. They may also be more susceptible to changes in brain chemistry and structure as well as physical effects on the heart and blood vessels.

Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP, said in a press release, “Drug overdose deaths, particularly from opioids such as prescription pain relievers and heroin, is a rising epidemic. Substance use disorders are treatable chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, that should be addressed through expansion of evidence-based public and individual health initiatives to prevent, treat, and promote recovery.”

Dr. Damle is the president of the ACP.

Among the ACP recommendations:

Physicians should become familiar with appropriate clinical guidelines for the use of controlled substances and follow them consistently.

Opioid users, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel should have ready access to Naloxone, a medication used to treat opioid drug overdose.

Physicians should have more training in treating substance abuse disorders.

The US should implement a national prescription drug monitoring program and improve existing programs.

Substance abuse should be considered a medical and mental health condition rather a law enforcement issue.

The US should increase the number of medical professionals who can treat substance use and abuse.

“Physicians can help guide their patients towards recovery by becoming educated about substance use disorders and proper prescribing practices, consulting prescription drug monitoring systems to reduce opioid misuse, and assisting patients in their treatment,” Dr. Damle noted in the press release.

The new recommendations were published in the March issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Medical Express, “Internists issue recommendations for preventing and treating substance use disorders”

Annals of Internal Medicine, “Health and Public Policy to Facilitate Effective Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Involving Illicit and Prescription Drugs: An American College of Physicians Position Paper”
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use”