Doctors Need “More Training” to Treat Opioid Addiction: Survey

The majority of Massachusetts doctors (three out of four) didn’t receive training on addiction during medical school or their residency, according to the results of a new survey. It also found that less than half of ER and internal medicine specialists believe that opioid use disorder (OUD) is a treatable disease.

Doctor Survey Funded by MA Non-profit for Shatterproof

The survey was funded by RIZE Massachusetts, a nonprofit organization, and the GE Foundation. It was conducted by the nonprofit organization Shatterproof and specifically looked at how the stigma around OUD influences how doctors treat patients living with addiction.

Massachusetts Medical Society doctors were asked questions about the following:

• Their perceptions about OUD
• Barriers to screening for OUD
• Barriers to treating OUD
• Best ways to train doctors to prevent stigma about OUD and improve patient care

Massachusetts Facing Opioid Overdose Epidemic

Julie Burns, the president and CEO of RIZE Massachusetts, stated that the state is facing an epidemic resulting in the deaths of an average of four people each day from an opioid overdose. She also said that the MA health care system is the “frontline effort in combating [the] epidemic.” Ms. Burns went on to comment that the survey findings are important part of understanding how to help physicians treat these patients as well as making it easier for people who are suffering from addiction to seek treatment.

The results of the survey found emergency providers are twice likely as medical workers in other specialties to say that providing methadone treatment for OUD only substitutes one addiction for another. Emergency medical providers also feel most strongly that treating patients with OUD takes time and resources away from other patients.

Newer Doctors More Likely to Have Received Addiction Treatment Training

The survey results also revealed that doctors who have been in practice for less than 10 years are twice as likely to have been given at least some addiction treatment training than doctors who have been in practice longer than a decade. Dr. Maryanne Bombaugh, the president of the medical society and an OB-GYN with a practice in Falmouth, said that she was surprised that there are practices that “really would not embrace caring for patients with a substance use disorder.” She said that the lack of comfort caring for patients living with an addiction stuck out for her.

Local hospitals are taking steps to respond to the survey results. They have already promised to take action to improve their methods in treating patients. Twelve hospitals in Boston and Cambridge have pledged to train their staff to provide better addiction treatment, as well as to offer better support to employees who are dealing with their own or a loved one’s addiction.

The survey results clearly indicate that more education and training for doctors is needed, according to Dr. Bombaugh. She said that this is a situation where if you can measure results, you can manage them. Now that the gaps have been identified, work can start on filling starting to fill them.