APA Joins AMA Task Force to Address America’s Opioid Crisis

Task force engages physicians to curb opioid abuse epidemic

ARLINGTON, VA. — Opioid abuse is a serious public health problem that has reached crisis levels across the United States, with 44 people dying each day from overdose of opioids, and many more becoming addicted. Recognizing the urgency and serious impact of this issue on the health of hundreds of thousands of patients across the country, today the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced that it has joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and other medical organizations to address the growing epidemic.

The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse comprises 27 physician organizations including the APA, AMA, American Osteopathic Association, 17 specialty and seven state medical societies, and the American Dental Association. Task force members are committed to identifying the best practices to combat this public health crisis and move swiftly to implement those practices across the country.

We have joined together as part of this special Task Force because we collectively believe that it is our responsibility to work together to provide a clear road map that will help bring an end to this public health epidemic,” said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A.

“We are committed to working long-term on a multi-pronged, comprehensive public health approach to end opioid abuse in America.”

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., has specialized in substance use treatment, notably in previous posts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and as the head of the D.C. Department of Health and Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration.

“As experts in the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders, psychiatrists play an important role in curbing this epidemic and helping our medical colleagues participate in the prescribing part of the treatment plan,” Levin said. “The APA is honored to join our colleagues in the house of medicine in addressing this problem. We owe it to our patients to ensure they receive the proper and appropriate care.”

The task force’s initial focus will be on efforts that urge physicians to register for and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) as part of the decision-making process when considering treatment options. When PDMPs are fully-funded, contain relevant clinical information and are available at the point of care, they have been shown to be an effective tool to help physicians identify patients who may be misusing opioids, and to implement treatment strategies including referral for those in need of further care.

“PDMPs vary greatly in efficacy and functionality from state to state,” said Harris, a Georgia psychiatrist. “Alone, they will not end this crisis, but they can provide helpful clinical information, and because they are available in nearly every state, PDMPs can be effective in turning the tide to end opioid abuse in the right direction.”

The new initiative seeks to significantly enhance physicians’ education on safe, effective and evidence-based prescribing. This includes a new resource web page that houses vital information on PDMPs and their effectiveness for physician practices. The site also includes a robust national marketing, social media and communications campaign to significantly raise awareness of the steps that physicians can take to combat this epidemic and ensure they are aware of all options available to them for appropriate prescribing.

“America’s patients who live with acute and chronic pain deserve compassionate, high-quality and personalized care and we will do everything we can to create a health care response that ensures they live longer, fuller and productive lives,” Harris said.

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psychiatry.org.

The American Medical Association is the premier national organization dedicated to empowering the nation’s physicians to continually provide safer, higher quality, and more efficient care to patients and communities. For more than 165 years the AMA has been unwavering in its commitment to using its unique position and knowledge to shape a healthier future for America.


American Psychiatric Association:
Erin Connors, 703-907-8562

American Medical Association:
Stephanie S. Johnson, 312-464-5921

Media Contacts

Erin Connors, 202-609-7113

Press Line, 202-459-9732