As the opioid drug epidemic hits an all-time high, it is important that our communities offer high-quality addiction treatment offered by experienced, educated professionals. But in the United States today, very few medical training programs specifically teach addiction medicine. This puts a huge strain on medical professionals as they face patients who struggle with addiction. It also makes it difficult for those who want to enter the addiction treatment profession to find quality training.
Treatment Advances Do Not Reflect Educational and Training Opportunities
Addiction medicine has made major advances in the past few decades, as knowledge of the brain and its healing capacity have increased. However, comprehensive addiction training is lacking in most medical education programs in America. Most physicians-to-be receive at least some training in a variety of fields, but rarely is addiction medicine included in those lists.
A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) called out “the failure of the medical profession at every level — in medical school, residency training, continuing education and in practice” to adequately address addiction. CASA recommends better training and education for all medical students.
Addiction Permeates Modern Society
- Addiction — whether to tobacco, alcohol or other drugs — is a disease that contributes to 632,000 deaths in the United States annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- More than over 10 percent of individuals 12 years of age and over have used an illicit drug in the past month in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- The opioid drug abuse epidemic has become the leading killer of Americans 50 and younger (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2015.
- Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
And yet, according to the NY Times, “there are only 52 addiction medicine fellowships, minuscule compared to other subspecialties. In August, the first dozen finally received gold-standard board certification status from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (by contrast, there are at least 235 accredited programs in sports medicine).” Nationwide, fewer than 6 percent of physicians are trained and certified to prescribe buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid withdrawal (National Institutes of Health).
Training Medical Professionals in Addiction Medicine
Boston University is taking steps to ensure all its medical students are exposed to addiction medicine. During this training, medical students are taught to look for the warning signs of substance use disorders among patients, as well as understand the potential for addiction in the medications they prescribe.
Professor and Associate Dean at Boston University, Dr. Daniel Alford, believes in his school’s curriculum which encompasses addiction medicine along with other fields. However, he knows this new focus comes with its own challenges. “The biggest challenge now is how do you sustain it?” Dr. Alford said in an interview. “Who keeps updating it? When faculty leaves, who will replace them?”
Addiction Treatment Medicine
Anyone who has been through addiction and recovery knows how powerful this disease can be and how difficult it can be to treat. For this reason, addiction treatment professionals need to receive adequate education and specialized training. The most effective addiction treatment professionals are those who possess a passion for helping others overcome adversity and have the training and experience needed to actually treat addicted patients using proven techniques.
The work is often difficult and progress can be slow, but for those in the addiction treatment field, there is no better line of work. “I really enjoy working with these patients,” Dr. Bradley M. Buchheit of Boston Medical Center told the NY Times. “They have often been kicked to the curb by the formal medical system. They don’t trust us. So for them to walk into a room and have a doctor say, ‘It’s great to see you, thank you for coming in,’ is very powerful. And then you can see them get better with treatment. It can be very rewarding work.”
Licensed and Experienced Addiction Professionals in Ohio
The Ridge is a physician-directed treatment center that offers effective therapy models for sobriety. Our treatment staff has a diverse background in addiction treatment and related fields, and our providers include psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, and experienced, licensed chemical dependency counselors. With experience in Behavioral Science, Psychiatry, Addiction Counseling, Criminal Justice, and Behavior Management, our team is fully equipped to help clients achieve lasting sobriety.
To learn more about the addiction treatment professionals at The Ridge, visit our staff page.