Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe, July 2016

To the Editor:

We applaud the Globe’s coverage of the epicenter of Boston’s opioid crisis (“Life and Loss On Methadone Mile”) for showing the human faces of some of the most disenfranchised and stigmatized people in our Commonwealth. The residents of “Methadone Mile” are those that have been hardest hit by lack of treatment beds and inadequate funding for recovery services, and are disproportionately poor, people of color, and LGBTQ community members.  We also applaud police efforts to divert people away from the criminal justice system, as criminalization will only result in more criminal records for vulnerable groups without reducing the drug trade.

We object, however, to some of the stigmatizing language used by the Globe. For instance, referring to people as “clean” implies those still struggling with addiction–a chronic medical disease–are “dirty.” Furthermore, calling methadone “just another addiction” is both stigmatizing and inaccurate. Clinical trials have shown that the most effective duration of methadone or buprenorphine is lifelong. We would never say a diabetic using insulin daily is “addicted,” and the same should go for those using medications to treat their substance use disorder. Language creates stigma, and stigma leads to poor outcomes for the most marginalized of our society.

Andy Hyatt, Medical Student, Boston University School of Medicine

Rebecca Lee, Medical Student, Tufts University School of Medicine

Andreas Mitchell, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

Student Coalition on Addiction Members

Letter to the Editor, NYT, February 2016

To the Editor:

Re “For Mark Willenbring, Substance Abuse Treatment Begins With Research” (Science section, Feb. 23):
We were very pleased to read your article highlighting the work of Dr. Willenbring. As medical and dental students training at institutions across Massachusetts, a state hard-hit by the current opioid epidemic, we are committed to expanding access to the highly effective, evidence-based therapies that physicians like Dr. Willenbring are providing for those struggling with substance abuse. Ensuring that patients are offered proven treatments such as Suboxone and behavioral therapy is a critically important step toward stemming the current epidemic and alleviating untold suffering. We have found, however, that our medical schools provide us with little training on how to implement these treatments, and few of the physicians who can teach us prescribe them. In response to this, we have developed a statewide coalition that seeks to push our medical schools to develop stronger curricula for addiction. We support medical and dental students across the country in demanding increased education and training in providing these validated therapies from their institutions. We want to be a generation of physicians that is equipped to prevent and treat substance abuse.