UF HealthStreet hosted the 16th national Our Community, Our Health (OCOH) town hall, the second in our series covering the opioid crisis, on May 21, 2018.
This event featured a panel of health care professionals who discussed different aspects of the current opioid crisis and ways medically assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction can improve health outcomes and reduce overdoses.
The town hall was moderated by Irvin (PeDro) Cohen, chair of the CTSI Community Advisory Board. Our expert panelists examined the origins of the current opioid crisis, discussed the stigma associated with opioid addiction and provided information about the importance of MAT being the standard of care for treating opioid use disorder (OUD).
Dr. Jay Kuchera, a fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, provided insight into the origins of the current opioid epidemic including the prescribing practices of medical professionals. Kuchera also led a discussion on opioid addiction and the stigma associated with it.
Dr. Jason Hunt, chief fellow in addiction medicine at the University of Florida, discussed some the of the physiological processes of addiction in the brain. He explained that addiction has been recognized as a disease by the medical establishment for over 50 years, with alcoholism designated as a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956.
Hunt also described the medical model supportive of MAT and how it works to stem addiction.
Barbara (Basia) Adraka-Christou, J.D., Ph.D., presented perspectives from her research on the stigma and barriers to treatment encountered by people with opioid addiction. She included the experiences of people in recovery gathered from several dozen interviews.
Additionally, Adraka-Christou explained the efficacy of MAT in reducing overdose deaths by 30-50 percent and helping patients to sustain their recovery. She, like Kuchera and Hunt, discussed the stigma that those using opioids face including in 12-step programs, treatment centers, family and friends, the criminal justice system, and healthcare.