Image © National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011
If you've been following my blog for a while, you will know my views on the harm done to people with addictions by the lack of compassion they face in society, particularly when it comes from those who are supposed to help them -- healthcare professionals. So I was delighted to hear from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that they are developing an innovative new project to enhance professional attitudes towards people with addiction.
The Addiction Performance Project was launched last month in Boston to help health professionals identify and treat or refer drug-addicted patients in primary care settings. The Addiction Performance Project is a series of dramatic readings by award-winning, professional actors, intended to reduce the stigma associated with addiction, and encourage compassion.
Understanding an addict is one of the biggest challenges many people face in recognizing the need to provide support, not judgement, to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This project is a step in the right direction in promoting that understanding in those most able to help.
According to NIDA, research suggests that primary care doctors could significantly help reduce drug abuse, yet many express concern that they do not have the experience or tools to identify drug use in their patients. The performances are part of a free continuing medical education (CME) curricula developed through NIDA's outreach to practicing physicians, physicians in training, and other health professionals.
What I think is really clever about this project is that it appeals to physicians in a way that continuing education typically does not. This is high class entertainment, not bleeding heart stories from people whose personal mistakes are all too easy to judge, putting the professional back into a comfortable position of superiority.
It might even bring back happy memories of being top of the class in Literature, as each performance begins with a reading of Act III of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night," and is followed by a brief expert panel reaction and audience discussion that taps into the plays' key themes to address challenges and opportunities in caring for addicted patients.
The Addiction Performance Project encourages dialogue about the role of individual biases and beliefs about people who abuse drugs and how these beliefs affect individual physician screening and treatment of patients, and how to incorporate screening, intervention, and referral to treatment into primary care settings.
Currently, the 2011 run of the Addiction Performance Project includes Phoenix, AZ (May 6) - featuring Kathleen Chalfant and other actors to be announced.