Published October 9, 2013
Richard D. Blondell, MD, vice chair for addiction medicine and professor of family medicine, will direct a new national center aimed at training physicians to address addiction through early intervention and prevention.
The National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine is being established at the University at Buffalo by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) Foundation.
It is funded with a $2 million, three-year grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
The new center will focus on developing a curriculum and training primary care providers to become specialists in a new preventive approach to addiction care.
The training will focus on how to best prevent and screen for addictions, as well as how to best intervene or make referrals to treatment, especially for adolescents and young adults.
“Right now, family doctors and pediatricians who are interested in taking a preventive medicine approach to addiction don’t have a pathway to become credentialed,” says Blondell. “We are creating that pathway.”
Under Blondell’s direction, the center also will work to make prevention, brief intervention and treatment for substance abuse available at all points of entry to the health care system, including physicians’ offices, community clinics, school and college health centers, emergency rooms, trauma centers and hospitals.
“Addiction medicine has traditionally been focused on treatment,” says Blondell, noting that most people are familiar with high-profile treatment centers and celebrities’ efforts to undergo detoxification.
“But why should we wait for people to totally ruin their lives with drugs before we intervene?” he asks. “We need to start looking for early phases of the disease and start intervening right away with screening and treatment, where appropriate.”
“Addiction is a pediatric disease,” he adds. “About 90 percent of adults with an alcohol or drug problem started abusing substances before age 18.”
Describing the new approach as “a paradigm shift in addiction medicine,” Blondell compares the emphasis on prevention to what occurred decades ago with diseases like breast cancer.
“Now we recognize that those diseases can have a 10-year lead time,” he says. “So we started doing cancer screening, like mammograms, to find the disease early. We need to do the same thing with addiction.”
As chair of ABAM's Fellowship Accreditation Review Committee, Blondell directs the organization that determines which addiction medicine fellowship programs in North America receive accreditation.
He founded the Department of Family Medicine’s addiction fellowship, one of 19 programs of its kind in the nation.
In addition to his expertise in addiction medicine education, Blondell studies alcoholism and the relationship between chronic pain and addiction.