Carver College of Medicine to require addiction treatment curriculum

The Carver College of Medicine held its 27th White Coat Ceremony Aug. 13 at Hancher Auditorium for first-year students beginning their medical education at Iowa. CREDIT UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

A three-year, nearly $450,000 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will allow students in the medical and physician assistant programs at the University of Iowa to learn more about medicines for addiction treatment (MAT).

Andrea Weber, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant director of the UI Addiction and Recovery Collaborative, says the intent is for more students at the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) to learn about addiction-related topics, such as prescribing buprenorphine or taking an effective substance use history without judgement or stigma.

“Every student now spends at least a half a day in the MAT clinic,” Ms. Weber said in a statement. “They get to see how buprenorphine is utilized in clinic and see people in various stages of recovery, which I think in itself is helpful to students. Instead of seeing people only using substances chaotically, they also get to see people in remission and doing great.”

Earlier this month, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office signed an agreement with University of Iowa Health Care to develop a comprehensive, statewide opioid treatment program using MAT, an increasingly popular alternative prescription. MAT uses the drugs buprenorphine or methadone as medications for addiction and withdrawal, both of which are highly effective in preventing overdose deaths.

Clinicians must be certified to prescribe MAT, and with only 200 clinicians currently trained to provide such a service in the state, it’s difficult for Iowans to find local treatment.

Ms. Weber hopes that her students will one day qualify for a buprenorphine waiver without needing additional training in the near future.

An estimated 12,000 Iowans have an opioid use disorder, according to a press release, but less than 3% of Drug Enforcement Agency-licensed providers in Iowa are certified to prescribe MAT. No providers in 65 of Iowa’s 99 counties hold a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.