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What Is Involved in Becoming a Medical Addiction Specialist?

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The U.S. Surgeon General issued a new report called “Facing Addiction.” In it, he expressed dire warnings about the volume of patients facing addiction:

  • One in seven Americans will misuse alcohol or drugs in their lifetimes.
  • 20 million Americans currently suffer from addiction.
  • 78 people die from an overdose every day in this country.

Here is one more startling statistic. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) suggests that the majority of physicians in the American healthcare system simply are not prepared to handle these patients.  The Washington Post confirms that only 10 percent of the substance users in the U.S. actually receive treatment.

This article explores what you have to do to become a medical addiction specialist. What does that role entail? What training is required? What can you expect in the way of salary and work environment?

Who Will Answer the Need for Addiction Treatment?

While the American Board of Addiction Medicine is attempting to remediate the statistics above by encouraging more doctors to become certified in addiction treatment, the process is a slow one.

Yet the physicians in American ERs overwhelmingly do not understand these drugs, addiction, and addiction treatment modalities. That makes the addition of credentialing for addiction treatment a necessity in American healthcare facilities. While most physicians and psychiatrists do not specialize in addiction treatment, the American healthcare system is desperate for more of these talented professionals.

The Role of an Addiction Specialist

Addiction treatment specialists combine the best of internal medicine, mental health counseling, social work, and public health to provide compassionate care to substance users. Doctorly.org defines an addiction specialist as a “doctor who has been specially trained and certified to help within the complex case of someone who is addicted to any substance.”

Certification in addition medicine requires:

Addiction treatment

Addiction treatment providers are trained in the physical, mental, and behavioral factors leading to addiction.

ASAM certification includes classes on neurobiology, the identification and screening of addictive behaviors, treatment, referral, medically assisted treatment, behavioral therapies, and more. Physicians or psychologists can receive ASAM’s training to supplement their existing expertise, take the certification exam, and practice as addiction treatment specialists. It is also recommended that addiction treatment specialists obtain a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number and a Buprenorphine waiver.

Addiction treatment specialists can work in a variety of clinical settings, from an ER to an inpatient psychiatric facility or an addiction treatment facility specializing in these disorders.

Addiction treatment requires enormous skill across a wide variety of disciplines. That is because these disorders affect human beings physically, psychologically, and behaviorally. It is no wonder that the typical ER or family practice doctor simply is ill-equipped to handle the influx of patients experiencing these diseases.

Organizations like ASAM are standing by to help doctors and psychiatrists engage in additional training in order to qualify as addiction treatment specialist. Given the incredible need for these professionals, everything should be done to encourage this training. 

Are you a clinician looking for an accredited addiction treatment facility for your patients? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.