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New Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force Urges Policymakers to Act

by | Sep 29, 2021


Task Force issues new policy recommendations to remove frustrating treatment barriers, increase access to harm reduction strategies, and address serious racial, gender, sexual orientation, and other health-related disparities


Rockville, MD - The American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association today released new recommendations as part of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force to help end the nation’s drug-related overdose and death epidemic.


The recommendations are focused on actions physicians can take as well as those policymakers and public health officials must take. This includes broad efforts to remove barriers and improve access to evidence-based care for patients with pain, a substance use disorder (SUD), or mental illness, as well as increase access to multiple harm reduction strategies. The new Task Force also will work to more directly address the changing drug overdose epidemic, focus on removing racial, gender, sexual orientation, and other health-related inequities.


“The nation’s physicians must continue to lead by example to help our patients with pain, SUDs and mental illness,” said Task Force Chair Bobby Mukkamala, MD. “But removing barriers requires more stakeholders to join us. This new Task Force is making clear the opportunity we have to reduce mortality and improve outcomes, but we also will be clear with policymakers that failure to adopt our recommendations will prolong the epidemic and our patients’ suffering.”


Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • Support patients with pain, mental illness or a substance use disorder (SUD) by building an evidence-based, sustainable and resilient infrastructure and health care workforce rather than continuing a crisis-driven approach that has led to multiple unintended negative consequences, including one-size-fits-all strategies, continued stigma and widespread gaps in data, evidence-based treatment, and prevention efforts.
  • Support coverage for, access to, and payment of comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, multi-modal evidence-based treatment for patients with pain, a substance use disorder or mental illness. Additionally, coverage, access and payment should directly address racial, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and economic inequities as well as social determinants of health. This includes removing barriers to evidence-based treatment for SUDs, co-occurring mental illness and pain.
  • Broaden public health and harm reduction strategies to save lives from overdose, limit the spread of infectious disease, eliminate stigma and reduce harms for people who use drugs and other substances.
  • Improve stakeholder and multi-sector collaboration in an effort to ensure that the patients, policymakers, employers, and communities benefit from evidence-based decisions.


“Given the severity of the United States’ drug-related poisoning epidemic and the lethality of the illicit drug supply, it is critical for physicians, policymakers, and public health officials to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach and implement evidence-based interventions to treat addiction, save lives, and promote recovery,” said William F. Haning, III, MD, DLFAPA, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “People living with pain, mental illness, or addiction all deserve comprehensive, compassionate care. Today’s recommendations by the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force outline the bold and urgent action needed to combat this ongoing public health crisis.”


Read the full Task Force recommendations.


The member organizations in the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force include:


American Medical Association

American Osteopathic Association

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

American Academy of Neurology

American Academy of  Orthopaedic Surgeons

American Academy of Pain Medicine

American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons

American College of Emergency Physicians

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

American College of Physicians

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Psychiatric Association

American Society of Addiction Medicine

American Society of Anesthesiologists

American Society of Clinical Oncology

Arkansas Medical Society

California Medical Association

Maine Medical Association

Massachusetts Medical Society

Medical Society of the State of New York

New Mexico Medical Society

Ohio State Medical Association

Oregon Medical Association

Utah Medical Association


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Media Contact 

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