What gets lost here is the desperation, shame, and self-loathing that accompany drug addiction. Medical doctors must not lose sight of the desperate person behind the behaviors, which can be extremely off-putting and lead to feelings of disgust, helplessness, and even contempt for the drug seeker.
Empathy is crucial. Training programs are available and must be prioritized by medical institutions to address this culture-made crisis.
When medical professionals aren’t equipped with the tools and skills to meet the desperate person behind the wall of addiction, conversations are abruptly ended, and relationships are severed, often before the problem is named and a dedicated team is mobilized to help the individual.
True empathy does not mean continuing to write prescriptions. Empathy means asking questions and humanizing the patient, which can result in finding hope for a drug-free future by showing an alternative pathway to recovery….
In Massachusetts, the crisis has reached fever pitch. Last year, Governor Charlie Baker convened a task force to make recommendations on the crisis—and one of those must be empathy training for physicians dealing with drug-addicted patients.
by Helen Riess, MD