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A center devoted to training doctors in addiction medicine will be established in Buffalo through a three-year, $2 million grant from the Conrad H. Hilton Foundation.

The new National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine will be directed by Dr. Richard D. Blondell, a professor of family medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The way we treat addiction today is like treating cancer in an advanced stage. It needs to shift,” said Blondell, an addiction specialist.

The grant was awarded to the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation, which will locate the center in Buffalo. The center will provide the expertise to increase the number of physicians trained in addiction medicine, with an emphasis on prevention and screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment, particularly for adolescents and young adults.

Blondell said addiction treatment focuses too much on adults and the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse rather than prevention and early intervention.

The center is expected to open by Jan. 1. Its creation comes as prescription drug abuse has grown into a national epidemic. Painkillers kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.

“It takes a long time to go from being a social drinker to an alcoholic. That time frame is much compressed with prescription drugs. You can’t just write it off as youthful indiscretion anymore. The drugs are too powerful and addicting people earlier,” Blondell said.

The center will work to set standards for addiction medicine training in the United States and promote prevention and early diagnosis and intervention.

Avi Israel lauded the announcement.

“You need to stop addiction before it starts, because once you get addicted, society treats you like a throwaway person,” he said. His son, Michael, 20, addicted to painkillers and other prescription drugs from treatment for Crohn’s disease, killed himself in 2011 in the family’s North Buffalo home. “The health system is failing these people,” he said. “People are getting prescribed into addiction by doctors and then being left to fend for themselves.”

email: hdavis@buffnews.com