Addiction Medicine

An Addiction Medicine specialist is a medical doctor who focuses on the evaluation and treatment of individuals with alcohol, drug, or other substance-related or addictive behavior disorders and concurrent mental health issues.

Addiction is a long term complicated mental health disorder involving altered brain function and persistent negative behaviors; it can lead to progressive development, the persistent challenge of relapse, and the potential for death if not treated. Addiction includes pathological use of alcohol and mind-altering drug substances as well as behavior addictions such as food, sex, shopping, and gambling problems.  Addiction takes a heavy toll not only on individuals who are struggling with the issue but also on their families and friends. Studies show that the majority of individuals with a substance abuse issue have concurrent mental health issues. In many, distressing emotional and mental symptoms lead to using drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate.

Principles of Effective Treatment:

  • Treatments vary based on individual needs and may require in-patient or residential settings.
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs including possible co-existing mental health disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies (cognitive behavioral therapy) are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
  • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
  • Patients require long-term follow-up.