Jessica Gregg is medical director for substance use disorders at Central City Concern in Portland, Ore., and an associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.
Addiction has long been medicine’s unwanted stepchild. Doctors didn’t understand it, didn’t know how to treat it and felt helpless in the face of the wreckage it brought to their patients’ lives. As a result, while providers addressed the consequences of addiction — endocarditis, liver failure, seizures, overdose — they rarely treated the disease itself. That mysterious task has been left to others: counselors, peers in recovery and 12-step programs.