Take Steps to Prevent Substance Abuse


 By Michael Guidi, D.O.

Substance abuse in the U.S. and in our local communities is growing at an alarming rate. We in the Mass. Medical Society (MMS) have done our best this past year in trying to limit prescription writing of narcotics, and we need to continue to do so.

But what are the solutions to limiting use of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and synthetic marijuana? Do we continue to read the headlines — and the obituaries of young people — and hope and pray that our children and grandchildren do not fall victim to this epidemic?

I hope not.

Last year, the MMS House of Delegates adopted policy encouraging all primary-care physicians to take a history of each patient’s illicit drug use, and support greater inclusion of behavioral health, including wraparound services, within primary-care settings, and advocate for payment for these services.

Here is what I am doing along those lines to create a wraparound approach to primary-care behavioral medicine:

• I take a proper history regarding the use of illicit and/or prescription drugs. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of physicians asking these questions directly to the patient and making eye contact while doing so.
• I incorporate behavioral-health services in my office on a daily basis. This allows direct communication between the mental health specialist and me — something that has been missing for much too long.
• I helped establish a grass-roots network in my community of those interested in reducing illicit drug use and substance abuse among those of all ages. Connecting with a network in your community is a way to share information and expertise and identify the resources and interventions that need to be developed. In my community, we are creating a network of substance-abuse counselors, public-health nurses, board members, public-safety officials, probation officers, and school-committee members.

Working with this network, I helped secure a grant from the MMS Foundation for Family Services of the Merrimack Valley to support a program for students ages 12-18 at risk for substance abuse in Lawrence. The $25,000 grant will support a mindfulness-based curriculum aiming to build emotional resilience and reduce substance abuse.

While this grant will help, we all need to do our part to fight against the ravages of substance abuse. So I urge all of you to please reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors and help create programs that will be successful in your communities.

Dr. Michael Guidi is a family physician and member of the MMS Committee on Student Health and Sports Medicine.

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