American Society of Addiciton Medicine

Guest Editorial: Confronting Addiction from Prevention to Recovery

by Petros Levounis, MD, MA

President, American Psychiatric Association 

Over the past year as president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), my presidential theme has been “Confronting Addiction from Prevention to Recovery.” This initiative has focused on four of the biggest areas—three persistent and one emerging—in addiction medicine: vaping & tobacco, opioids, alcohol, and technological addictions. Each of these issues has been addressed in quarterly educational campaigns that have seen American Psychiatric Association member experts creating resources aimed at the general public and physicians alike.  

I was inspired to undertake this initiative as it played to our strengths as addiction professionals, my personal strengths as an addiction psychiatrist, and the APA’s outstanding ability to affect meaningful change from resolving scientific intricacies in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now in its fifth, text revised, edition, the DSM-5-TR) to testifying before congress during some of the most consequential hearings of our times. 

We are in a unique moment where we are lucky to have incredible science, research, and tools that can help in the treatment of SUDs. Some of these, like naloxone and buprenorphine for example, can mean the difference between life and death for someone who lives with opioid use disorder. 

Therein lies our challenge. Many of our patients are either unaware of or unable to access such treatments, and many clinicians are hamstrung by regulatory hurdles and legal grey areas that can lead to hesitancy in prescribing treatments that are not only beneficial for a patient, but also perfectly legal.  

This is part of the reason why we developed the presidential initiative working group which has done a fantastic job in framing the four topic areas in an informative and relatable way. The working group is led by Smita Das, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the APA Council on Addiction Psychiatry, and include council members Tauheed Zaman, M.D. (tobacco/vaping), Lief Fenno, M.D., Ph.D. (opioids), Jeremy Kidd, M.D. (alcohol), and APA member James Sherer, M.D. (technology). Their expertise and enthusiasm for this initiative have been invaluable and are a huge reason why we have been so successful in disseminating evidence-based messages through social media, podcasts, animated films, op-eds, and numerous interviews on major TV networks

One project I am particularly proud of is a pair of educational resources highlighting what physicians and the public should know about addiction. The Top Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Addiction and Top Ten Things Every Physician Should Know About Addiction are a product of collaboration between APA and ASAM, as well as our partners at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the American Association of Family Physicians.  

The presidential initiative also serves as the basis for the theme of the APA 2024 Annual Meeting in New York City this May. The meeting will feature special sessions related to the theme of Confronting Addiction from Prevention to Recovery that truly cover the full spectrum of addiction medicine and explore perspectives from a wide range of presenters. Our annual meeting will feature addictionologists, social workers, psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and patients as well.  

At our Annual Meeting in New York City, my hometown, I am confident we will succeed in connecting APA members with other committed professionals as we all work together to best help people who live with substance use disorders and behavioral addictions.