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.