99-052 (Short Title)
Distributed November 18, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Scott Turner

Taking the good news about addiction treatment to the streets

The Brown-based Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, an advocacy group for a public health approach to addiction treatment, received $1.35 million in grants to build coalitions with community groups and specialists in addiction medicine and primary care.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A nationwide program calling for a more cost-effective and humane drug policy has received two grants totaling $1.35 million to build coalitions with community groups and to conduct education programs with addiction and primary care specialists.

Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP) works to channel the nation’s war on drugs away from a losing battle against illegal narcotic use to a public health approach that treats addiction as a chronic illness.

The new funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will allow PLNDP to expand its efforts to raise awareness of the promise of addiction treatment and to pressure the judicial and medical systems to make that treatment more readily available.

During the next two years, PLNDP will link its physician and medical student associates with local community groups and provide a full range of educational materials, including information on underserved populations and prevention programs. More than 6,000 physicians and several hundred medical students have become PLNDP associates since the group formed in 1997.

In addition, PLNDP will work with the American Society of Addictive Medicine to conduct education programs and advocacy efforts for consumers. PLNDP will join forces with at least four of the nation’s leading primary care organizations to translate findings on the effectiveness of drug treatment to the day-to-day work of physicians.

The new funding will also help PLNDP produce an educational videotape that summarizes research in addiction prevention and early treatment. PLNDP has already produced two videotapes featuring findings on the promise of treatment and the success of drug courts. To date, the group has received more than 5,000 requests for the videos.

“Policy change is slow and arduous and it takes wide-ranging constituent development to achieve it,” said PLNDP project director David C. Lewis, M.D., director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies in the Brown University School of Medicine, where PLNDP is based.

PLNDP has shared its message with Congress, federal officials, state legislatures, law-enforcement agencies, and both the legal and medical communities. The group has formed collaborations with the American Bar Association, American Medical Association and other professional groups. Ten medical societies have formally endorsed PLNDP.

Besides transforming the criminal justice approach of the nation’s drug policy into one of public health and medical solutions, PLNDP wants to increase availability of treatment and prevention, enhance support for addiction research, and provide better and more-inclusive education for medical students and practicing physicians, Lewis said.

PLNDP studies indicate that addiction treatment is effective, working as well as other medical care for illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, and that both addiction treatment and drug courts are potent anti-crime measures and less costly than prison. Other PLNDP research shows that most students receive little or no training in substance abuse issues in medical school.

PLNDP is made up of a group of 37 distinguished doctors. Members include David Kessler, M.D., past commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Louis Sullivan, M.D., former secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS); and Edward Brandt, M.D., and Philip Lee, M.D., former assistant secretaries in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other PLNDP members include Lonnie Bristow, M.D., past president of the American Medical Association, June Osborn, M.D., former chair of the Congressionally appointed National Commission on AIDS, and former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello, M.D.

For more information, call (401) 444-1817, contact plndp@brown.edu or visit www.caas.brown.edu/plndp.