More than 20 million people in the U.S. are grappling with some kind of substance use disorder (SUD), as per the approximations shared by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. In the meantime, the drug overdose crisis in the country is showing no signs of improvement. One of the reasons for this is the shortage of physicians specialized in treating addiction and the ongoing opioid epidemic has made this scarcity even more evident.
To address this dire situation of doctor deficit, medical institutions across the U.S. are striving to offer fellowships to would-be physicians who aspire to specialize in treating SUDs. As part of these fellowship programs, aspiring physicians would undergo postgraduate training for a year or two in hospitals and clinics where they would learn and implement research-backed approaches for treating patients with addiction disorders. Nearly 60 such fellowship programs have been started and these are attracting brilliant doctors from all over the nation.
What is drawing aspiring doctors towards addiction treatment?
Usually medical students encounter patients suffering from an addiction during their rotation with an emergency room (ER) or a substance abuse treatment center. During these stints, they get a first-hand experience of patients desperately seeking pain medications. Recalling her experience, Dr. Hillary Tamar, who was assigned to a rotation in a rehabilitation center in southern Arizona in her fourth year, shared that it was at the facility that she was able to connect with people in a manner that she had never experienced earlier in another specialty. This made her want to learn more about addiction treatment and she therefore enrolled in the appropriate course.
When aspiring doctors work closely with patients struggling with an addiction, they understand the nuances involved in treating addiction. They get a glimpse into the lives of these patients and how addiction impacts not just the patient at a physical and emotional level, but also their immediate family members and friends. Such aspiring doctors are showing their fervor to pursue a fellowship in addiction medicine, so that they can build a strong and lasting relationship with their patients and are able to focus beyond the diagnosis.
New generation physicians care about social justice
Dr. Anna Lembke, medical director of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, said that it used to be excruciatingly difficult about a decade ago to find a medical resident or student inclined towards learning about addiction medicine. However, she remarked that the new generation doctors are drawn to this field, as they are more aware and sensitive about social justice.
Previously, addiction medicine used to be the domain of only the psychiatry department. However, this treatment model revolutionized when the American Board of Medical Specialties started recognizing addiction medicine as an authenticated subspecialty in 2015. Prior to this change, it was quite challenging to get addiction fellowships approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Thus, it used to be very difficult to hire fresh talent and secure funding for their fellowship programs.
Addiction medicine – A paradigm shift
With the ACGME accreditation, the fellowship programs pertaining to addiction medicine opened up more choices for aspiring physicians. However, it is not mandatory that every physician keen on getting into addiction treatment must do a fellowship.
For instance, physicians eager to treat patients with a SUD can learn the nitty-gritty of providing medication-assisted treatment, such as buprenorphine, from a specialist. Public health leaders have been insisting that more physicians need to be trained in evidence-based treatment such as buprenorphine. This type of treatment is important, as it can reduce the risk of fatalities especially among patients recovering from an opioid overdose.
As more and more primary care physicians are training to offer support to patients dealing with an addiction, they will display more confidence and increased comfort level while rendering addiction treatment. One of the prime ways of restricting the opioid epidemic is to ensure there are sufficient trained doctors available on the ground who know how to respond appropriately and immediately to drug overdose situations.
Seeking help for substance abuse
Presently, the U.S. is dealing with one of the worst ever drug crises in the form of the opioid addiction. If an individual is involved in long-term substance abuse, it alters the functioning of their brains, impacts their thoughts, emotions, and life situations. However, with the help of a drug detox program, an individual can be free of the existing substance in their system, cope with the withdrawal symptoms, and be mentally and physically prepared for the treatment process ahead. The treatment at certified substance abuse treatment centers can be life-changing for them and their loved ones.
If you or a loved one is dealing with substance abuse issues and are looking for reliable inpatient substance abuse treatment centers, then reach out to the 24/7 Recovery Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-441-4405 and speak with an admission counselor about your options for addiction treatment. You can also chat online with our representative for further assistance.