Sept. 30, 2022 – At many hospitals in Massachusetts and across the country, Marie would likely have been discharged anyway, while still in the pain of withdrawal. Perhaps she would leave with a list of local detox programs where she might — or might not — find help. But a crucial opportunity to intervene and treat at the hospital would have been lost — partly because most hospitals don’t have specialists available who know how to treat addiction, and other clinicians don’t know what to do.

Hospitals typically employ all sorts of specialists who focus on critical organs like hearts, lungs and kidneys — or who treat systemic or chronic diseases of the immune system or the brain. There are specialists for children, for mental illness, for childbirth and hospice.

But if your illness is an addiction or a condition related to drug or alcohol use, there are few hospitals where patients can see a clinician — whether that be an M.D., nurse, therapist or social worker — who specializes in addiction medicine. 

Their absence among hospital personnel is particularly striking at a time when overdose deaths in the U.S. have reached record highs, and research shows patients face an increased risk of fatal overdose in the days or weeks after they are discharged from a hospital.

“They’re left on their own to figure it out, which unfortunately usually means resuming [drug] use because that’s the only way to feel better,” says Liz Tadie, a nurse practitioner certified in addiction care.


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