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In addiction recovery, the priority is survival

A kudos to Felice Freyer for reminding us of the urgent challenges of our practice of addiction medicine (“Hard lessons about addiction,” Page A1, March 10). Helping patients to survive is the most urgent priority: Dead people can’t recover. Narcan (naloxone) is easy to use and widely available; prescribed buprenorphine or methadone reduce the death rate by 50 percent for those surviving an overdose. More challenges must be met: of fixing the broken system where these life-saving medications are not available in all medical settings and treatment programs; of fighting the myth and stigma that says people cannot be in recovery if they are taking a prescribed medication; of erasing inequity in access to care; and of including prominently the voices of patients, policy makers, and medical experts in assuring quality care for all. I know the reward of walking with patients in the path of recovery, often daunting, often straining hope. But hope is rational in this state, in this era, with our joint commitment and work.

Michael F. Bierer



The writer is president of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.