This is an exciting time to be working in the field of Addiction Psychiatry. Despite the enormous social and economic costs of substance use disorders, this is a time of opportunity. Many advances are being made in terms of understanding the neurobiology of addiction. These developments help to underscore that addiction is a medical disease that warrants recognition and evidence-based treatment in the health care spectrum. This message is essential if we are to reduce the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental and substance use disorders. I cannot remember any other time in my 25 year career as an Addiction Psychiatrist when there were so many open discussions of substance use and substance use disorders in public forums. Innovations in therapies including medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorders are more available now than ever. The use of technology is increasing access to care and treatment paradigms are shifting to be more person-centered. New behavioral therapies are translational and exciting, based on targets developed in the human laboratory.
Despite this progress, we know that more Americans will die this year of opioid overdoses than ever before. More efforts are needed to equip communities with resources and education for naloxone overdose reversal and more people need access to legitimate treatment. Despite some plateauing of opioid prescriptions, little is being done to address the misuse of many other prescribed medications including benzodiazepines. States and communities are struggling with how best to handle drug legalization and decriminalization, but taking much needed steps towards criminal justice reform.
Tobacco still kills more individuals than any other substance and effects vulnerable populations including those with behavioral health comorbidity. Tobacco causes a staggering 50% of deaths in those with serious mental illness and kills more substance users than their primary substance. We now have considerable evidence that tobacco threatens recovery by impacting negatively on finances, employability, housing, mental health symptoms and abstinence from other substances. Despite some progress in recognition of this problem, a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report of 2016 state data1 indicates that US mental health programs still only ask about tobacco 50% of the time. This underscores the need to fully implement tobacco treatment into behavioral health settings.
The RWJMS Division of Addiction Psychiatry has been working to help people with substance use disorders for more than 20 years. Our work covers a broad span of disorders and population subgroups but has addictions at its core. This includes conducting epidemiological studies to identify the scope of addiction problems and populations most affected, developing new programs and treatment models, rigorously testing these in controlled conditions and translating effective interventions into real world settings through implementation. We are also committed to teaching others and putting science into practice, through extensive efforts with trainees at every level as well as continuing education.
Thank you for your interest in our division. This website is full of information about our clinical research team, educational activities, current projects and ongoing clinical trials. We hope you will explore this site and find the information helpful.