What Is an Addictionologist?
There are many different terms for addiction professionals. If you or someone including you love is struggling with substance abuse, you may come across the term “addictionologist”. However, you may not be sure about what this term means. In this article, we’ll explain what an addictionologist is and how they can help individuals who find it hard to control their drug or alcohol use.
The way medical and mental health professionals see addiction has changed. Previously, it was believed that people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol could stop using if they really wanted to or if they were strong enough. Addiction was seen as a moral failing and people who were addicted were stigmatized and ostracized.
As a result, treatment options were limited. However, times have changed and addiction is no longer seen as a choice. Instead, it is generally accepted that it is a complex mental illness that can be treated.
Addictionology is the scientific study of addiction. Instead of seeing just the behavioral or spiritual effects of addiction, an addictionologist or addiction medicine physician looks at the individual as a whole. They specialize in treating the full spectrum of addiction including the biological, psychological, and social components and this allows for a wider range of treatment options.
While most people who become addicted use drugs or alcohol use the substance voluntarily the first time, their ability to resist becomes compromised over time. This is largely due to the long-term effects of drug exposure on the way the brain functions.
Substance addiction changes the parts of the brain involved in memory and learning, reward and motivation, and impulse control. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have a compulsive urge to use even when the substances take over their lives and they face negative consequences.
Addiction is a chronic disease so while it can be treated, it’s not simple. It takes more than a few days for a person to stop drinking or using drugs. Even when they detox and complete intensive treatment, they need ongoing support and counseling. Addiction treatment is designed to help individuals not just stop using drugs but remain drug-free in the long term and contribute to their families and communities.
Addictionologists are highly-educated physicians and psychiatrists. They receive their board certification in addiction medicine from entities such as the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Board of Preventive Medicine, and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. These certifications are recognized across the country by organizations such as the American Medical Association.
People who attend specialized treatment centers get access to the many benefits of an addictionologist. Addiction medicine physicians are skilled in addiction prevention as well as evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. They also work to prevent, diagnose, and treat substance abuse-related health problems. Addictionologists can help people struggling with problematic use of various substances including alcohol, nicotine, and prescription drugs.
Because they have in-depth knowledge of the various effects of substance use disorders, addictionologists help to ensure that addiction treatment programs are designed to manage all rehabilitation-related challenges.
Addictionologists play a key role in detox. In some cases, patients would face severe health challenges if they stopped drinking or taking a particular drug cold turkey. Complications can lead to coma or death.
However, specialists are trained to address both the psychiatric and physical issues that can develop as a result of addiction. They may prescribe medications to minimize withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. This can prevent individuals from relapsing at a time when the risk is often at its highest.
If you or your loved one enrolls in treatment at a rehab center that’s run by certified addictionologists, you’re likely to benefit from multi-faceted evidence-based therapies such as milieu therapy, motivational interviewing, and CBT. These types of methodologies have been proven to be effective.
When you have access to an addictionologist, you benefit from:
- A wide range of mindfulness and relapse prevention activities
- Knowledge that can lead to the diagnosis of co-occurring mental health disorders
- Group therapy and other forms of counseling that help you to get to the bottom of your addiction and manage challenges
The Bio-Psychosocial Approach to Addiction
Addiction affects every aspect of an individual’s life, here we’ll look over the various components of addiction and its effects on;
Many of the effects are physical since chronic substance abuse damages both the brain and other critical systems of the body. Addiction changes the way the brain works. Normally, the brain’s neurotransmitters send signals to the rest of the body about how you should feel. When you feel joy or pleasure from eating your favorite food or talking to a loved one, the brain naturally releases dopamine.
However, when you use drugs or alcohol, the brain produces an unusually high amount of this chemical. With continual substance use, the brain stops producing dopamine on its own. As a result, you can’t feel joy or pleasure from activities other than drug use.
Addiction also has a psychological component. People turn to drugs and alcohol for several reasons but research shows that up to 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders also have a substance use disorder. In some cases, addiction results from an individual’s attempts to self-medicate.
However, mental health issues can also develop as a consequence of substance abuse. Mental illness and addiction can fuel each other so it can be difficult to diagnose and treat both conditions. This is one of the reasons why seeking treatment at a facility staffed by an addictionologist is so important.
Certain social situations can also trigger drug and alcohol use. It is often difficult to abstain from substances when attending festivals and concerts or spending time in bars. Hanging out with certain people or being exposed to specific emotional situations can also be triggering.
However, an addictionologist can provide you with healthy ways to manage stress and cope with triggers after you’ve completed intensive treatment. A key aspect of this is likely to be forming new connections with sober peers who can support and motivate you.
Approaches to addiction have changed a lot over the years and the substance abuse stigma is gone from professional circles. Today, the most effective treatment programs are centered around evidence-based methodologies. Treating the full spectrum of addiction improves outcomes and makes it more likely that patients will be able to live a drug-free life.
The team at The Discovery House is here to help if you need access to specialists that support your recovery. When you enter our facility, we’ll assess you and come up with a treatment plan that’s customized to your needs and goals.
To ensure that each patient has the best chance of success, we offer a full continuum of care that includes medically supervised detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient care. We have a three-to-one client-to-counselor ratio that ensures each person gets the attention they need.
We accept many insurance policies, including:
- Aetna Health Insurance
- Assurant Health
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- ComPsych Insurance
- Cigna Health Insurance
- Molina Healthcare
- United Healthcare
- ValueOptions Behavioral Health Care
Call us today at 818.452.1676 to learn more about how we may be able to help you.