Addiction medicine was formally recognized in 1990, and defined as “the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of persons with the disease of addiction, of those with substance-related health conditions, and of people who show unhealthy use of substances, including nicotine, alcohol, prescription medications, and other licit and illicit drugs.” It was not until 2016 that the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognized addiction medicine as a medical subspecialty under the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM). Addiction specialists are addiction medicine physicians and addiction psychiatrists who hold either subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Preventive Medicine, subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), or a Certificate of Added Qualification in Addiction Medicine conferred by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
What Do They Do?
With the additional training and education, addiction medicine specialists focus on addictive diseases and the treatment of such diseases. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that addiction medicine specialists “provide prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment services for patients with unhealthy substance use or substance-related health conditions.” The various types of addictions that can be treated with addiction medicine include, but are not limited to the following examples provided by the New York Society of Addiction Medicine:
- Tobacco Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. Typical treatment plans for tobacco use disorder may include a combination of:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Nicotine replacement therapy
- Motivational interviewing
- Pharmacotherapy (e.g., bupropion and varenicline)
- Alcohol Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. If the individual requires detox (acute medical stabilization and withdrawal services) the addiction medicine specialist can help to arrange those services. The subsequent treatment plan for those struggling with alcohol use disorder may include:
- An array of therapeutic modalities:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR):
- Expressive arts therapy
- FDA-approved medications such as Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram
- An array of therapeutic modalities:
- Opioid Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. It is not uncommon for those struggling with opioid use disorder to require detox, which the addiction medicine specialist can help to arrange. After the successful completion of the detox process, the treatment plan may include a combination of:
- Psychotherapeutic modalities (e.g., CBT, DBT, EMDR, etc.)
Physicians in the subspecialty can also treat family members who have been adversely affected by a loved one’s substance use or addiction. They serve as clinical experts, teachers, faculty, and researchers. Addiction medicine specialists are qualified to recognize and treat the psychiatric and physical complications of addiction.
The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.