Preparing Students to Work with Addiction Issues

Several medical Blogs have been commenting on alcoholics and drug addicts tricking doctors into giving them drugs. Many of these Blogs suggest that heightened vigilance is the answer to this problem even if this means not giving pain medication to patients who need it.
As physicians preparing students for medical practice, this important issue needs to be more closely examined and prepared for in medical school. Here are some suggestions:
1. Increase awareness of addiction treatment including how the desire to take responsibility for stopping the addiction results in physicians playing futile control games with addicts. Identifying what is and is not in the physician’s control is essential here.
2. Teach students to handle stressful situations in ways that avoid becoming involved in power struggles with patients. Acceptance of things the student cannot change is essential to this process.
3. Increase awareness of how and when pain medication is needed even when facing addiction issues including the information from the National Cancer Institute below.
People who take cancer pain medicines rarely become addicted to them. Addiction is a common fear of people taking pain medicine. Such fear may prevent people from taking the medicine. Or it may cause family members to encourage you to “hold off” as long as possible between doses. Addiction is defined by many medical societies as uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use. When opioids (also known as narcotics) — the strongest pain relievers available — are taken for pain, they rarely cause addiction as defined here. When you are ready to stop taking opioids, the doctor gradually lowers the amount of medicine you are taking. By the time you stop using them completely, the body has had time to adjust. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about how to use pain medicines safely and about any concerns you have about addiction.