When families and friends are desperate to get help for loved ones struggling with addiction, many turn to healthcare professionals who aren’t trained in addiction medicine. Just as you would turn to a specialist if your loved one had cancer or diabetes, addiction needs the same considerations. If not, the consequences could be seriously harmful and even deadly.
The need for addiction specialists is demonstrated in the explosion of people who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse issues. In 2015, SAMHSA published a study that found 21.5 million Americans, 12 years or older, reported a substance use disorder. (1) These numbers point to a critical need for specialists who have been trained in addiction medicine to help the millions who need specialized addiction treatment to become sober and live healthy lives.
Many doctors without training in addiction are called upon to treat people with substance abuse disorders. Unfortunately, lack of training renders this help largely ineffective. Less than 10 percent of medical, nursing and pharmacy schools offer even one course in addiction medicine. (2)
With more than 20 million people requiring addiction treatment, this gap between education and those in dire need shows why more specialized programs to train addiction medical professionals are needed now. Without it, more people will fall through the cracks.
Increase the Number of Addiction Specialists to Meet Demand
More than 47,000 people died of drug overdose in 2014. (3) The need for more addiction specialists is critical, and the sooner this need is met, the sooner we can get in front of the addiction epidemic that is sweeping the country. We, as a nation, must recognize that substance abuse is a medical disorder necessitating qualified medical treatment, and the people who suffer from it are valuable people who need help now.
In 2016, Congress passed legislation called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) to address the growing problems of opioid addiction and the high rates of overdoses. The bill authorizes new treatment programs and supports existing ones that cover the spectrum of care from prevention to recovery support. While CARA isn’t a total solution, it’s a good start down the path toward making sure every person suffering from addiction can access the care they need.
What You Can Do
Education about addiction is one way you can begin the process of getting help for yourself or a loved one. Understand that addiction is a disease that needs specialized medical care. Removing the stigmas associated with drug and alcohol abuse also helps break down the stumbling blocks that prevent proper care.
Become familiar with how detox programs help build the foundation to successful recovery. Many people fear entering treatment because of the painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms they’ll experience during detox. A medically supervised detox helps to minimize these symptoms and monitors the person’s health to ensure they’re safe at all times. Then, addiction therapy can begin once physical dependence is under control.
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