CA: UT Center for Addiction Science tackles substance abuse
The nation’s first center of excellence in addiction medicine was unveiled in Memphis on Tuesday to help physicians rise to the challenge of treating substance abuse, including the opioid epidemic.
The Center for Addiction Science at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine is the first to receive the center of excellence recognition from The Addiction Medicine Foundation, based in Bethesda, Maryland.
The foundation accredits physician training in addiction medicine. As the first center of excellence in addiction medicine, the Memphis-based UT College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science will serve as a model for centers that combine treatment, research, education for health professionals and community outreach, officials said.
Dr. Kevin Kunz, executive vice president of The Addiction Medicine Foundation, praised the collaboration and community support at UTHSC. Resistance to change and silo-like departments that don’t work together in medical schools are obstacles to meeting the addiction challenge, Kunz said.
“It surprises most people that across the United States one out of every 100 deaths today across America is due directly to an opioid overdose, a prescription pain pill that was diverted or taken inappropriately,” he told an audience in Downtown Memphis.
“Or to heroin, and 75 percent of today’s heroin users in America started with prescription pain pills written by a physician that was then either used by that patient or diverted from mom’s medicine cabinet,” Kunz said.
For Dr. David Stern, Robert Kaplan executive dean of the UT College of Medicine, the Center for Addiction Science is the latest example of harnessing the UT Health Science Center to meet health needs in Memphis and the region.
Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Science, called addiction an equal-opportunity illness that does not discriminate.
Abuse opioids, prescription painkillers, have become a national epidemic that also fuel a rise in heroin addiction, authorities say.
Memphis police have investigated more than 220 heroin overdoses so far this year, with 77 deaths, federal and state prosecutors say.In Tennessee, more than 1,263 people died from opioid overdoses in 2014, officials said, citing state Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
More broadly, harmful effects of addictions including alcohol and nicotine are the leading cause of death in Tennessee and account for about one in four deaths nationwide, officials said.
Training doctors to offer pain therapy alternatives to avoid over-prescription of opioids is one goal of the center. Increasing the number of physicians equipped to treat addictions like a chronic disease is another.
The Center for Addiction Science offers a new addiction fellowship to train doctors and other health care professionals in preventing, diagnosing and treating addiction. Multidisciplinary research includes a special focus on newborns exposed to addictive drugs before they are born.
Stern, Kunz and Methodist University Hospital CEO Jeffrey Liebman provided an overview of the effort at an Oct. 25 White House symposium called “Medicine Responds to Addiction II.” A video including their remarks is available at whitehouse.gov.