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This year’s president’s invited session at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo ( 32109 ) in Chicago will explore the role of clinical labs in solving the opioid epidemic in the United States, and what strategies are underway to combat the misuse of these drugs.

“The opioid epidemic is the most lethal and costly public health crisis in the nation today. While labs play a key role in detecting legitimate and illicit opioid use, we will not test our way out of the epidemic,” AACC President Dennis J. Dietzen, PhD, DABCC, FACB, told CLN Stat. An addiction medicine specialist and a social scientist will highlight key features of some strategies to combat the problem. “They’ll provide key context for our work in the laboratory,” Dietzen said of the upcoming session, A View from the Trenches of the Opioid Epidemic: How Do We Win the War?

Addiction is a chronic, biopsychosocial disease, albeit a treatable one from which people can recover, observed co-presenter James H. Berry, DO, director of addictions at West Virginia University’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. “Colleagues in the lab are critical partners in helping clinicians manage addiction,” he told CLN Stat.

A number of intervention approaches are known to improve outcomes among patients in controlled settings. “However, it is not clear how these practices can be applied in real world settings,” co-presenter Carissa van den Berk-Clark, PhD, MSW, an assistant professor at Saint Louis University’s Family and Community Medicine department, told CLN Stat.

The session will focus on translating evidence-based interventions into practice to reduce opioid misuse, as well as targeting distribution of information and intervention materials to individuals at risk for opioid misuse and dependence.

In her talk, Berk-Clark plans to highlight studies on implementation opportunities and barriers to reducing the risk of opioid addiction and overdose and treating opioid dependence in community settings. The session will discuss a number of research questions:

  1. How do primary care providers manage chronic pain and determine whether patients should be provided opioids?
  2. How do primary care providers decide which chronic pain patients should be kept on opioids?
  3. How are individuals identified as opioid users or opioid dependent within community settings?
  4. What are some of the implementation challenges related to current policy/program responses such as medically assisted treatment (MAT), federal guidelines on acute treatment, and use of Narcan in emergency situations?

Berry will be addressing the addiction epidemic, the disease model of addiction, and the vital role MAT plays in managing opioid use disorder.

“I’ll be coming at this from my perspective practicing as an addiction specialist in West Virginia, the state hardest hit by the epidemic. I hope to mitigate any stigma that may exist among professional colleagues who see addiction as primarily a moral failing and MAT as trading one drug for another,” Berry said.

Upon completing the session, participants should gain a better understanding of:

  1. What treatment approaches for opioid use and misuse look like in real world settings;
  2. Chronic pain patients and barriers to opioid withdrawal options and treatment; and
  3. How opioid misuse is identified in community settings.

A View from the Trenches of the Opioid Epidemic: How Do We Win the War? will take place Monday, July 30, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo. Pathologists, clinical chemists, toxicologists, and medical technologists are encouraged to attend this session, which is worth 1.5 CE hours.