NIDA Unveils New Program to Help Physicians Foster Deeper Understanding of Addiction

NIDA Unveils New Program to Help Physicians Foster Deeper Understanding of Addiction

Drug addiction can be a very touchy subject. In society it is still somewhat taboo – who wants to admit that their mother or brother is an addict? What addict finds it easy to confess his struggles and turn for help? Many physicians don’t even know how to properly identify drug or alcohol addiction in their patients either. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has just designed a new program aimed at helping medical providers understand and have compassion for the millions of American affected by this disease.

The new program is called the Addiction Performance Project. It is put on by NIDAMED, which is a subgroup of NIDA. Its target audience is practicing physicians, those in training and other medical professionals. Its main goal is to educate these individuals regarding addiction so that the shame of addiction can be removed, leaving more room for understanding and empathy for those struggling with dependence.

The program is designed in theater format. The idea is to bring awareness to the issue in laymen’s terms in a way that is both interesting and impactful. The Addiction Performance Project is just that – a performance that is put on in theaters at specified locations in Boston, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C for a limited time only during the rest of this year and next. Each performance is enacted by award-winning actors and actresses, and the drama begins with a reading from Act III of the play Long Day’s Journey in Night by playwright Eugene O’Neill.

The play describes events unfolding during one day, from 8:30 a.m. till midnight in the Tyrones’ household – a household torn by addiction. The story is loosely based on the real life story of O’Neill himself, his brother and parents. The play details the family dysfunction that occurs as a result of addition. All the men in the house are alcoholics and the mother, Mary, is a morphine addict. The play underscores the struggles of a family that loves and tries to help each other amidst the denial, blame, and resentment that each faces for not wanting to confront their own addictions.

Each performance is then followed by dialogue from an expert panel, and then the audience is invited into a guided discussion on several topics. Some topics of conversation include 1) common challenges faced by primary care providers when caring for addicts, 2) overcoming biases on the part of the care provider, and 3) how to properly conduct screening, brief intervention, and referral of patients into a primary care setting. There is no charge for the performances; they are purely entertaining and educational in nature. In fact, the performance may also qualify for Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits.

Although almost 24 million individuals warranted specialized treatment for addiction in 2009, only 10 percent received it. Studies show that primary care providers may be able to increase the number of patients who don’t get help but should. The Addiction Performance Project is aimed at helping those physicians who have voiced concerns about their own ineptness at identifying and treating this sort of disease. To register for a show or to simply get more information on the Addiction Performance Project, go to: http://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed/APP.
 

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