Our son overdosed in his doctor’s office and they had no idea what to do

Health care providers receive minimal training to address addiction and are unequipped to identify, treat and manage this common life-threatening disease.

By Bill Williams

He overdosed in a doctor’s office. It’s hard to believe, right? We were sitting in the waiting room when he started nodding off. I could tell he wasn’t right. It was the pediatrician’s office so they hustled him off into another room because they had all these young kids and families around and they wanted to isolate him. And they didn’t know how to handle it. They were stumped by the whole thing; they’d never had anyone overdose in their office before. They ended up calling an ambulance and had him transported to the emergency department. The doctor was thought of as William’s primary provider but there was no contact from the doctor after the overdose.

Bill’s story is taken from an interview transcript and has been edited for clarity.

The Problem

Medical schools and other health professional training programs barely address addiction. As a result, many health care providers do not feel confident in their abilities to treat a patient with substance use disorder and tend to share many of the same stereotypes and misconceptions as the general public.

These biases significantly impact the type and quality of care that a patient with addiction receives. The lack of medical professionals trained in addiction treatment makes it exceedingly difficult for patients and their families to find quality, effective, lifesaving care.

The Solution

Train all health professionals in the basics of addiction to fully integrate addiction with the mainstream health care system.

Take Action

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Congress passed the MATE Act!

Send a letter to your members of Congress thanking them for passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which included important addiction-related provisions, including the Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act. The MATE Act requires health care practitioners, as a condition of receiving or renewing their license to prescribe controlled substances, to receive a one-time, eight-hour training on substance use disorder.