Addiction medicine is a scope of medical practice that is focused on assisting patients in recovery from some type of addictive substance or behavior. A wide range of healthcare professionals participate in the process of addiction treatment, including general practitioners, specialists, and psychologists. Usually, several different healthcare providers will work with a patient at various points in the recovery process.
Addiction can take on many forms. Individuals may find themselves dealing with pain medicine addiction after taking prescription medication after surgery or recovery from an accident. The abuse of legal substances such as alcohol often results in the development of an addiction. Use of illegal substances may also lead to a physical or emotional addiction that quickly becomes the primary focus of the victim’s life.
The first step in addiction medicine has to do with diagnosing the nature of the addiction. Along with input from the patient, physical and psychological examinations as well as tests on blood and urine samples will make it easier to get a good idea of how severe the addiction is, and make it possible to competently document the current status of the patient. This is important, since understanding exactly what factors are involved with the addiction will make it much easier to develop a focused treatment process and eventually restore the patient to wholeness.
With a valid diagnosis in hand, medical professionals can prepare a specific strategy to treat the addiction. At this point, addiction medicine may utilize a combination of prescription medication and psychotherapy to begin weaning the individual away from the addictive substance. For example, alcohol addiction medicine solutions may include a combination of peer counseling, therapy, and the use of some sort of medication that helps to elevate dopamine levels and thus ease withdrawal symptoms.
The exact process that the addiction medical specialists use will depend on several factors. First, the duration and intensity of the addiction will play a huge role in deciding what combination of strategies is likely to result in successful recovery. Doctors will also determine how to deal with the physical cravings that are part of substance withdrawal. In some cases, this may mean checking the patient into a detoxification center, where he or she can be monitored closely and provided access to medication or therapy. This precaution is especially important if the victim’s general health places him or her in danger of some type of organ failure during the detoxification process.
Along with assisting the patient to move through withdrawal, addiction medicine also addresses long term freedom from the addiction. Realizing that addiction usually occurs due to some sort of underlying psychological issues, the victim often sees a counselor for an extended period of time. This type of support is helpful when getting back to work and reconnecting with loved ones who were left behind during the period of addiction. The therapy component of addiction medicine can often make the difference between someone who successfully keeps an addiction at bay, and someone who returns to the addiction after a few weeks or months.
There are a number of different tools and settings used to deal with addiction. Drug addiction medicine often includes the use of private hospitals and clinics. Alcohol addiction may be treated on an outpatient basis. Behavioral addictions may use a combination of individual and group therapy as part of the treatment process. With all situations, addiction treatment medicine makes use of the broad range of current medical knowledge to bring about healing and help people get on with their lives.