Addiction has been a problem not only in the US but worldwide. The U.N 2021 World Drug Report has shown that around 275 million people used drugs worldwide, while over 36 million are struggling with various drug use disorders. In the US, almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction.
The prevalence of addiction across all age groups has led to the development of addiction medicine. A subspecialty focused on the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of addiction patients.
This specialty is relatively new because it was only recognized in 1990 and officially recognized in 2016 as a medical subspecialty under the American Board of Preventive Medicine. Medical professionals specializing in this kind of subspecialty are called addiction medicine physicians.
What is an Addiction Medicine Physician?
An addiction medicine doctor specializes in treating, diagnosing, and preventing addiction diseases. These physicians have board certifications to practice medicine plus another certificate from the American Board of Preventive Medicine.
Addiction medicine is a multidisciplinary specialty in addiction treatment because it considers the psychological and biological framework of addiction in patients.
Addiction Medicine Physician vs. Addiction Psychiatrist
An addiction medicine doctor and an addiction psychiatrist share most medical principles in diagnosing and treating addiction. Both recognize that addiction is an illness, and doctors can treat it through various methods. They also believe that there is no single formula or program for treating addiction because every patient is unique and must have an individual treatment plan.
However, these two specialties diverge in the following key area:
Root Cause of Addiction
Addiction psychiatrists tend to see the root cause of addiction as a mental illness or a symptom of an underlying mental illness. While they also recognize the role of genetics, addiction psychiatrists still see addiction as a mental state that affects a person’s mind and behavior.
On the other hand, an addiction medicine professional sees addiction as a brain disease with a genetic predisposition. They believe that this so-called “addiction gene” triggers addiction in a person’s body. These physicians also believe that chemical imbalances in the body cause addiction that can co-occur with other mental illnesses.
Basis of Treatment
An addiction psychiatrist uses research-based treatment to treat patients suffering from drug addiction. They link substance abuse with mental illnesses and see how these illnesses develop into addiction or any other form of escape.
Conversely, an addiction medicine physician generally uses experience-based treatment techniques to tackle addiction cases. They use psychiatric methods coupled with medicines that help augment psychological treatments.
Addiction medicine takes a medical approach because it considers addiction an illness similar to heart or lung diseases. However, they also consider the psychological aspect of the treatment. But for most of it, addiction medicine will involve a lot of medical tests and procedures. Doctors will require physical exams, different sets of bloodwork, and special lab tests.
On the other hand, addiction psychiatry takes a psychological approach. It approaches addiction through the lens of different psychological theories. They mainly use psychotherapy to understand the patient’s mental framework, behavior, and thinking pattern. Then, they introduce various techniques to help the patient achieve sobriety.
What are the Benefits of Addiction Medicine?
Seeking addiction medicine for addiction treatment can provide a different perspective on addiction. Since psychiatry focuses on psychological aspects, finding biological explanations for addiction can provide a deeper understanding of the patient’s case.
Expertise in the Field of Addiction
While an addiction psychiatrist is also an expert in addiction treatment, an addiction medicine physician focuses more on the medical aspect of addiction. They’ll check your body’s chemical and genetic frameworks to find the root cause of addiction. They will also consider psychological factors to provide a complete picture of the patient’s addiction problems. Ultimately, they will use all relevant data to create a treatment plan for the patient.
Multidisciplinary Understanding of Addiction
Addiction medicine doctors don’t just look at the psychological aspect of addiction. They seek medical interventions to help the patient overcome substance abuse and counteract or suppress the chemicals in the body that causes cravings for specific substances.
However, the use of medicine in treating addiction involves a lot of medical subspecialties because every patient is unique and has underlying conditions. For example, patients might ask for approval from cardiologists, urologists, and other doctors before addiction medicine practitioners prescribe the use of different kinds of drugs.
What Can I Expect from an Addiction Medicine Physician and Addiction Medicine Treatment?
Addiction medicine doctors treat different addictions and substance use disorders (SUD), while some doctors choose a specific field of addiction. Some doctors treat addiction related to tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse.
Use of Medicines During Treatment
Addiction medicine doctors believe that therapies and medications can help patients recover if therapy alone can’t help. Doctors in addiction medicine use medications to aid in traditional psychiatric treatment. Moreover, most medications for substance abuse augment psychiatric interventions because it alters the patient’s chemical imbalances.
For example, people with tobacco use disorder often undergo cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy. Their regimen may include medication such as varenicline and bupropion as part of the treatment. Alcohol abusers, on the other hand, may receive certain FDA-approved drugs like naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram for detoxification and control. The drugs methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are typically used for opioid abusers.
Types of Treatment for Substance Abuse
Treatments under addiction medicine vary as long as they pass the ASAM criteria of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. There’s no telling what treatment a patient will receive until the doctors have completed the preliminary tests and assessments. However, treatment can be inpatient, intensive outpatient, continuing care, or outpatient.
Get Professional Help With Addiction at Roots Through Recovery
Addiction is difficult to overcome without proper guidance. Thanks to advancements in addiction medicine, people who don’t respond well to traditional therapy can undergo medication-assisted treatment here at Roots Through Recovery.
While there’s no straight path to recovery, we believe that the hardest yet most important step is the first one — deciding to seek professional help. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, Roots Through Recovery offers a wide variety of substance abuse and mental health treatments to help you get on your way to recovery. More importantly, we provide a safe place that will help you feel comfortable and supported. Take the first step with Roots.
Call us at 562-379-9757 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.