The nation’s largest professional psychological organization would like to see treatment emphasized over punishment when it comes to dealing with the opioid crisis. That view from the American Psychological Association (APA) contrasts with the plan this week unveiled by President Trump to address the growing opioid epidemic.

“While we are encouraged that the administration is calling much-needed attention to the opioid epidemic in America, President Trump’s focus on prosecution and punishment all the way to the death penalty for some traffickers is ill-advised and extreme,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the APA.

“We urge the administration and Congress to focus instead on expanding access to nonpharmacological pain management treatments to prevent opioid addiction, and on extending evidence-based treatment and recovery support services to those dealing with an addiction.”

Evans called on policymakers to prioritize work in the following areas:

  • Promoting nonpharmacologic treatment for chronic pain, and increasing access to integrated pain management services and comorbid mental health disorders.
  • Providing a comprehensive continuum of services for those addicted to opioids, including psychotherapy and counseling as part of medication-assisted treatment and other psychosocial interventions.
  • Providing recovery support services, including housing, education and supported employment for those struggling with addiction.
  • Expanding the mental health and substance use treatment provider workforce, and improving health care providers’ effectiveness through education and training.
  • Increasing investments in research on psychosocial interventions to treat chronic pain, opioid addiction and other substance use disorders.
  • Improving the service delivery system by making administrative and infrastructure changes, including by strengthening the enforcement of mental health and substance use parity laws, reforming payment systems, changing child welfare system processes so that families affected by opioid addiction are kept together, and improving the availability and quality of services provided by drug courts.


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