Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Coroner gets letters

I have gotten 2 letters (actually emails) from the American Society of Addiction Medicine over the last couple of days. They had information that I thought I’d pass along through my blog.

The first was a sample letter to send to members of Congress (I have sent it to those representing my area) calling for parity in health insurance coverage for mental health and addictions treatment with medical care coverage. This is incredibly important; I have seen too many folks not getting the care they need because of lack of coverage, including those otherwise covered by health insurance. This, as you might suspect, contributes to worsening of illnesses and even to death.

On March 5, 2008, the House of Representatives took a historic step in passing the “Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act” (H.R. 1424). Like the “Mental Health Parity Act” (S. 558), passed by the Senate in September, this bill seeks to end the discrimination against millions of Americans suffering with mental illness and addiction.
These bills offer hope and healing to those with addiction and mental illness by offering treatment services in the same manner as all medical diseases currently covered under private health plans. While there are differences between these two pieces of legislation, I believe a bipartisan agreement can be reached and the strongest possible bill sent to the President before the end of the 110th Congress.
Now that the House and Senate have passed their bills, millions of Americans with mental illness and addiction and their families are counting on the 110th Congress to put aside its differences and come to a bipartisan agreement. This critical legislation has languished in Congress for over a decade and, with your help, this can be the year this groundbreaking civil rights legislation passes.

The second is a notice intended to get the attention of practicing physicians, as well as the consumers of medications as a reminder of the dangers of prescription meds and the “mixtures” that occur in real life. As I have written before (here for example) these combinations can lead to death, as can the individual drugs if over-used and/or abused.

The mixture of alcoholic beverages or opioid analgesics such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, with sedative hypnotics such as diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, is well known to physicians as a potentially fatal mixture when excessive doses are taken, either under a physician’s prescription, or with medications obtained from friends, family, or illegal sources. The general public needs to appreciate these dangers, and physicians can help educate their patients about such risks. Persons who seek intoxication via prescription drugs can accidentally put themselves into a lethal situation. Substance abuse and dependence are serious illnesses. Persons concerned about their misuse of prescription drugs, or a family member’s possible addiction, should discuss their concerns with their personal physician.

ASAM reminds physicians that no potentially addictive substance should be prescribed without obtaining a full history, including a substance use history; without clear objectives for prescribing such substances; and without clear end-points in mind for their treatment plans. ASAM encourages physician consultations for expert guidance in these patient care matters.

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