It is fair to say that the prescription opioid epidemic in America is the result of a number of contributing factors; it is just one thing that led to a spike in addiction rates and overdose deaths. However, many of the underlying causes can be traced back to the medical community, namely a lack of pain management training for physicians and rampant over prescribing. The majority of prescriptions for drugs like oxycodone written in America are done so by primary care physicians, rather than pain management specialists.

Historically, primary care physicians had had little training in the fields of pain management and/or addiction medicine. This resulted in burn and turn prescribing practices that brought about the epidemic that we face today. While addictive, opioids are a necessary evil when it comes to fighting pain, but doctors need to be adequately trained in proper prescribing practices.

Opioid Lessons

In Massachusetts, a state known for a number of prestigious schools, there has been a dramatic rise in opioid abuse in recent years. In an attempt to combat a crisis that led to more than a 1,000 deaths last year, the state’s four medical schools have agreed to add training in addiction prevention and treatment of prescription drug misuse to the curriculum, The Boston Globe reports. The medical schools include:

  • University of Massachusetts
  • Boston University
  • Harvard University
  • Tufts University

“We must ensure that future generations of physicians are equipped with the requisite skills to successfully prevent, identify, and treat substance use disorders,” said Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, in a news release.

Core Competency

While the four medical schools already address prescription drug abuse, the hope is that each medical school covers the many facets of the problem uniformly, according to the article. The medical schools, together with the Massachusetts Medical Society and the state Public Health Commissioner, created a list of ten “core competencies” which students should be proficient in upon graduation. Core competencies, such as:

  • Determining if a patient is at risk of opioid addiction.
  • Having a familiarity with opioid alternatives.
  • Being versed in current methods of treating addiction.
  • Developing pain and addiction treatment plans.
  • Understanding the stigmas that surround addiction.

“What we’re seeing in the community suggests that there’s a problem in how many opiate doses are out there,” said Dr. Terence R. Flotte, dean of the UMass medical school. “Whatever we’re doing now is not good enough.”


If you are or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, please contact Design for Change to begin the journey of recovery.

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