UT College of Medicine Center for Addiction Science receives top honor

The University of Tennessee College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science, which launched earlier this year, has been recognized as the first Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine in the country by The Addiction Medicine Foundation.

A ceremony honoring the achievement was held this week Downtown at the Halloran Center for the Performing Arts.
The center is the first in the U.S. to bring together clinical care, research, education and community outreach to address addiction and deadly substance use not only in Memphis but across the country.
Last year there were more opioid prescriptions written in Tennessee than there are people.

“The idea is that it (addiction) is a medical disorder, and we can help and make a difference using evidence-based treatment and medication-assisted therapy,” said Dr. David Stern, executive dean of the UT College of Medicine and UTHSC vice chancellor for clinical affairs.
For every person that dies of drug-related causes, there are 851 people in various stages of drug misuse, abuse, or recovery – totaling more than one million Tennesseans or one out of every six people.
The UT center’s areas of expertise include alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids, benzodiazepines and other sedatives, cocaine and amphetamines, as well as behavioral addictions including gambling and sex.
Last year there were more opioid prescriptions written in Tennessee than there are people, and 1,263 people died from opioid overdoses in 2014 - more than the number of deaths from automobile crashes.
In fact, each of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. has links to substance use, and one in four deaths are due to drugs or alcohol.
Stern also believes that many people become entangled in the criminal justice system due to the combined effects of mental health issues and substance problems.
“The most common accompanying condition for a patient with a mental health disorder is a substance use disorder and vice versa,” said Stern. “They often go together in a descending spiral that takes the person’s life away.”
Treatment services at the UT center include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, motivational enhancement therapy and 12-step program facilitation across all demographics. Physicians get the chance to better recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent addiction, and to offer alternate forms of pain therapy to avoid over-prescription of opioids.
Tennessee Senator Mark Norris, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, and Dr. Kevin Kunz, executive vice president of The Addiction Medicine Foundation in Bethesda, Md., were on hand for the ceremony this week.
“The preeminent institution unifying comprehensive care for the prevention and treatment of unhealthy substance use and addiction is the University of Tennessee Health Science Center,” said Kunz. “This recognition serves to acknowledge the innovative and collaborative approach at UT and sets a model for other institutions.”

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.