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Former AMA president addresses new opioid report on ‘Top Docs’       
The latest edition of the Medical Association of Georgia’s (MAG) ‘Top Docs’ show addresses the American Medical Association’s (AMA) ‘2020 AMA Opioid Task Force Report,’ which determined that there has been both a dramatic decrease in the use of prescription opioids and a troubling increase in the number of fatalities involving illicit opioids, stimulants (e.g., methamphetamine), heroin, and cocaine. The program features Patrice Harris, M.D., MA, a Georgia psychiatrist who is the immediate past president of the AMA and the chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force.  
Dr. Harris discusses…
– Key takeaways from the new AMA report
– Whether there has been an increase in PDMP use in Georgia  
– What steps physicians are taking to address these problems
– If there has been any increase in naloxone prescribing
– Whether more health care workers being certified to treat patients for addiction with buprenorphine has helped
– What affect COVID-19 has had on substance misuse and substance use disorders
– The need for more evidence-based harm reduction services, including sterile needle and syringe services
– What she would like to see lawmakers and insurers do going forward
In Georgia, physicians and allied health care professionals reduced opioid prescribing by 27 percent between 2014 (8.6 million) and 2019 (6.3 million), while the number of PDMP queries in the state rose from 1.14 million in 2016 to 9.4 million in 2019. It is also worth noting that Georgia has the third lowest per-capita prescribing rate in the Southeast region of the U.S.
AMA notes that, “Physicians also have continued to educate themselves on safe prescribing, pain management and recognizing signs of addiction. More than 50,000 physicians and other health care professionals nationwide have become certified to provide treatment for opioid use disorder in the past three years. Yet, illicit drugs are now the dominant reason why drug overdoses kill more than 70,000 people in the United States each year.”
On a positive note, AMA reports that the Centers for Disease Control determined that deaths involving prescription opioids decreased from 12,269 to 11,904 in the 2015-2019 timeframe – keeping in mind that number reached a high of 15,003 in July 2017.
MAG Immediate Past President Andrew Reisman, M.D., says that, “Physicians and allied health care professionals in Georgia should be applauded for the contributions that they have made in the fight against opioid misuse, but we can all agree that the number of deaths that are caused by overdoses is unacceptable – which means that we can’t afford to take our foot of the pedal.”
Dr. Harris is a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Atlanta. Having been a member of AMA’s Board of Trustees since 2011 and the chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force since it was formed in 2014, she was the first African American woman to become AMA’s president in 2019. In addition to MAG, Dr. Harris has held leadership positions at the American Psychiatric Association, the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, and The Big Cities Health Coalition. She is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, an adjunct assistant professor in the Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and an adjunct clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Morehouse University School of Medicine. Having earned a master’s degree and a medical degree from West Virginia University, Dr. Harris completed her residency in psychiatry and fellowships in child and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry at Emory.
Between downloads and live listeners, ‘Top Docs’ has now reached nearly 1.8 million listeners and viewers – which includes people in all 50 states and more than 80 countries. MAG has won three awards for the show, including an American Association of Medical Society Executives Profiles of Excellence Award, an American Society of Association Executives Silver Award, and a Health Information Resource Center Digital Health Award.
‘Top Docs’ is supported with a grant from Alliant Health Solutions in memory of Tom Williams, its former CEO.
In addition to the video recordings that are available on Facebook, ‘Top Docs’ is available as a podcast on AppleGoogleSpotifyStitcher, and iHeart Radio.
The views of the guests who appear on ‘Top Docs’ are theirs and are not necessarily consistent with MAG’s policies or positions. Contact Tom Kornegay at with questions about MAG’s ‘Top Docs’ show.
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