Substance Use

What Is an Addiction Medicine Physician?

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Addiction Medicine Physicians

Addiction medicine was not recognized as an official subspecialty until 1990, but addiction medicine specialists play a critical part in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease that is addiction. If you or someone you love is dealing with substance-related health conditions, an addiction medicine physician could be valuable.

Are you or someone you love dealing with drug abuse? Let Zinnia Heath answer your questions in a caring, confidential phone call. Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 to speak with our team of addiction treatment specialists.

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What Does an Addiction Medicine Physician Do?

Addiction medicine physicians specialize in treating unhealthy substance use and the health conditions caused by substance use.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a treatable, chronic disease that often causes compulsive behavior. This definition marks the importance of various levels of care for other chronic diseases, and addiction can be present in many forms.

An addiction medicine physician may treat substance use disorder with personalized therapies, depending on the illicit drugs being used and other complexities of addiction, such as environmental factors.

Addiction medicine physicians may work in residential treatment facilities, at a hospital, or in a clinic where outpatient addiction treatment services are provided. In most cases, addiction medicine physicians work in tandem with a large team — including specialized mental and behavioral health professionals — to implement effective treatment plans.

How Is an Addiction Medicine Physician Different From a Regular Physician?

Requirements vary from state to state, but to become an addiction medicine physician, a person must typically:

  • Obtain a doctorate degree
  • Pass a board exam to obtain board certification from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) or American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Serve an addiction fellowship
  • Complete a certification exam

Addiction medicine specialists receive advanced medical education in the field of substance use, which allows them to evaluate and understand the complex factors that drive addiction. This includes genetic, biological, physical, and spiritual impacts. As a result, they’re able to tailor a treatment plan to meet the needs of the individual.

Who Would Benefit From an Addiction Medicine Physician?

Anyone suffering from substance use disorder would benefit from seeing an addiction medicine physician. The customized guidance provided by these specialists can improve the success of addiction treatment programs and help an individual avoid relapse.

In addition to helping individuals with addiction, addiction medicine specialists are also strong advocates for addiction treatment. These specialists see first-hand the social and political challenges associated with substance use and advocate for better programs and policies to improve the welfare of those dealing with addiction.

If you or someone in your family is suffering from substance abuse, help is available. Zinnia Health can connect you with answers and resources in your area. Speak to our team by calling (855) 430-9439 for a free, no-obligation conversation.

Types of Addictions That Can Be Treated With Addiction Medicine

Addiction medicine physicians and other health care professionals who specialize in substance use can help in the diagnosis, detoxification, and treatment of addiction. Working with an addiction medicine specialist, you and your family members can better understand treatment options and complexities when dealing with the following types of addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use becomes an alcohol use disorder when a person has a strong urge to drink alcohol and/or finds it difficult to stop after one or two drinks. You may also have alcohol use disorder if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease your alcohol consumption or stop drinking.

Addiction medicine physicians can help diagnose alcohol use disorder and design a customized treatment plan that may include the following:

Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder refers to a person misusing or abusing opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, or methadone. Opioids can also be synthetic, such as fentanyl, while heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid. If a person experiences cravings between doses or intentionally uses opioids to get high, they have an opioid use disorder.

Addiction medicine physicians can diagnose opioid use disorder and create a treatment plan that may include:

Tobacco Use Disorder

Tobacco use disorder may involve chain smoking or continuous use of cigarettes, cigars, vape pens, chewing tobacco, or other products containing nicotine (which is the addictive component in tobacco products).

Addiction medicine physicians can help diagnose tobacco use disorder, evaluate the severity of addiction, and construct a customized treatment plan. Tobacco use disorder often involves motivational interviewing, along with:

Other Types of Addiction

There are addictive substances that don’t fit into the broad categories of opioid, alcohol, or tobacco use disorders. Substance use disorder can involve any number of illicit drugs or prescription medications, like central nervous system depressants.

A specialist in the field of addiction medicine can be extremely valuable in understanding the causes of substance use disorder and charting a course for recovery, especially with lesser-studied substances such as kratom or hallucinogens.

If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction, encourage them to speak with a professional who deals with the medical subspecialty of substance use treatment. It’s essential that they have an empathetic, educational, and productive discussion about their disease.

How to Find an Addiction Medicine Physician

Addiction medicine is one of the smaller medical specialties, and the number of substance use disorder cases currently exceeds the number of specialists in the United States. This means the most direct way to receive high-quality addiction treatment and get in front of specialized providers is to work with an addiction treatment center that employs multiple individuals.

  • Look for an addiction treatment center in your area with board certification
  • Ask your provider if they are an ABAM or ASAM member
  • If you are working with a standard internal medicine doctor or other professional, ask if they have completed an addiction medicine fellowship
  • Seek out a mental health professional who specializes in addiction psychiatry
  • Ask for a referral to an addiction medical specialist in your area or ask your doctor if they know of a specialist who has served many consecutive years helping those with addiction

Substance abuse can feel impossible to overcome on your own, but our specialists at Zinnia Health are on your side. Dial our 24/7 helpline at (855) 430-9439 to have a free, confidential conversation with our team of addiction specialists and get connected with resources in your area.

Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
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