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1. What Is an Addiction Medicine Specialist?
Addiction medicine specialists are physicians who manage alcohol and drug addiction and substance-related health disorders. To become an addiction medicine specialist, after graduating from medical school, a doctor needs to complete a residency program in preventive medicine or psychiatry, followed by subspecialty training in addiction medicine.
Addiction medicine physicians are specialized in the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of addiction and related health conditions, withdrawal symptoms, and prevention of relapse. They provide comprehensive medical as well as psychological treatment and rehabilitation for people with addiction, addiction-related health conditions, substances such as alcohol and nicotine, and the unhealthy use of prescription drugs or illegal or legal recreational drugs. Addiction medicine specialists also counsel family members of addiction patients.
The specialists work in ambulatory settings, health care facilities, and residential facilities. They provide inpatient as well as outpatient treatment programs.
2. When Should I See an Addiction Medicine Specialist?
You may contact an addiction medicine physician if you or your loved one notice symptoms that may indicate an addiction or craving for a substance such as alcohol and prescription or non-prescription drugs. Symptoms and behaviors that may be an indication of addiction include:
• Strong urge or craving to have a drug or substance, increasing over time
• Drug or substance-seeking behavior
• Tolerance (the need for increased doses to obtain the same response)
• Withdrawal (symptoms caused by abrupt quitting)
• Glazed, watery, or bloodshot eyes with either very dilated or contracted pupils
• Bruises or marks at injection points such as the arms
• Slurred or unclear speech
• Sleep problems
• Uncoordinated movements or shaking
• Changes and abnormalities in behavior, depression, irritability, or frequent mood swings
• Missing work and other activities, neglecting responsibilities, and getting into financial trouble
• Withdrawing from social and recreational activities
• Committing or getting involved in criminal activities or risky behavior such as driving under the influence or stealing
• Changes in eating behavior, unexplained weight gain or loss
• Problems with memory, concentration, or thinking
• Suicidal thoughts or behavior
3. What Kind of Tests Does an Addiction Medicine Specialist Perform or Recommend?
Addiction medicine specialists may use assessments and questionnaires designed to diagnose and evaluate addiction and substance use disorder.
Certain laboratory tests may be done to detect the presence of the drugs in your body, and find health problems caused by the use of these drugs or substances. These may include:
• Blood tests including liver and kidney function
• Urine tests
• Hair follicle, sweat, or saliva analysis
• Other tests such as neurology or cardiology evaluation
4. What Questions Should I Ask an Addiction Medicine Specialist?
You may want to ask these kinds of questions:
• Am I addicted?
• What can I do to treat this addiction?
• What are the different treatment programs you offer? What’s the best option for me?
• Is it necessary to completely stop the use of this drug or substance or would reducing be enough?
• Are the treatments effective? Are there any side effects?
• Does rehabilitation work? How long does this rehab program take?
• Are there any risks with stopping cold turkey? What can be done to manage the withdrawal symptoms? Are they going to have serious effects on my health?
• How common is relapse? How can it be prevented?
• How much does the treatment cost?
• Can family members help with my recovery? Is there any help or therapy available for them?
• How effective are individual, group, or family therapy sessions?
• Please help me find the support groups in my area.