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What Is an Addictionologist & How Can They Help?

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Effective addiction treatment programs employ a variety of professionals, including counselors, therapists, social workers, nurses, and addictionologists. If the last word in the previous sentence is unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. In today’s post, we’re going to answer a few important questions about addictionologists, including what is an addictionologist and how can they help?

What Is an Addictionologist?

What is an addictionologist? The quick answer is that addictionologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating people who have developed substance use disorders (which is the clinical term for addictions). 

However, to fully grasp what an addictionologist is (and does), you need more than one sentence. Thankfully, we’ve got the time and space to elaborate a bit about these important members of the medical profession.

Addiction medicine – or addictionology – is a specialty within the medical field that focuses on the physical and psychological aspects of addiction and recovery. Addictionologists also care for people who have health conditions that are related to substance abuse.

“Addictionologist” is a somewhat informal term. Professionals who work in this field are typically referred to officially as addiction medicine physicians or addiction medicine specialists.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), a focus on this aspect of treatment was recognized as a “self-designated specialty” in 1990. Through the ensuing decades, several other organizations have also officially acknowledged addiction medicine. For example:

  • The U.S. Drug Addiction Treatment Act, which became a federal law in 2000, included addictionologists among those who are allowed to prescribe certain medications to patients who are completing detox or working to remain in recovery.
  • The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) granted its official recognition to addiction medicine in 2016.
  • In 2020, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) began to issue a board exam for doctors of osteopathic medicine (Dos) to become certified in addition medicine.

Now that you have a better idea of what an addictionologist is, let’s turn our attention to what these professionals do and how they can help people who have become trapped in the downward spiral of compulsive substance abuse.

How Can an Addictionologist Help?

To become certified as an addiction medicine specialist, physicians must complete a thorough process to demonstrate their expertise in this field. They must also continue to meet several requirements in order to retain their certification.

Addictionologists bring a wealth of specialized training and experience to all phases of treatment. The following are just a few examples of how these dedicated professionals can help:

  • Conducting assessments and providing patients with accurate diagnoses
  • Identifying the presence of co-occurring mental health concerns
  • Developing customized addiction treatment plans
  • Addressing both the physical and the psychological aspects of addiction and recovery
  • Prescribing medications to ease cravings and other withdrawal symptoms

Perhaps most important of all, when you receive care at a treatment center that has an addictionologist on staff, you can rest assured that your treatment will involve a dedicated professional who is committed to upholding the highest standards of the profession.

How Can I Know if I Need an Addictionologist?

Only a qualified healthcare provider can diagnose a person with a substance use disorder (which is the clinical term for addiction). But if you take an honest look at your thought and behavior patterns, you may be able to determine if you should seek help from an addictionologist or a similar professional.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel like you need substances to experience joy or cope with sadness?
  2. Do you spend significant amounts of time thinking about, using, and recovering from the use of substances?
  3. Have you missed school or work – or failed to meet other important responsibilities – because of your substance use?
  4. Have you found that you need to use larger amounts of substances than you previously did to achieve the effects that you are seeking?
  5. Have you lied to or otherwise deceived friends or family members about how often you use substances or how much you use?
  6. When you are prevented from using substances – or when you try to stop using them – do you become angry or agitated, or do you start to feel physically sick?
  7. Has anyone in your life ever suggested to you that you might have a substance abuse problem?
  8. Do you think that you might be addicted to alcohol or another drug?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should make an appointment with an addictionologist, another healthcare provider, or an addiction treatment center. Completing an assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be important steps on the path toward treatment and recovery. 

Begin Addiction Treatment in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Recovery Solutions is a trusted provider of comprehensive outpatient services for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addiction and certain co-occurring mental health concerns. Features of care at our addiction treatment center in the Atlanta, Georgia, area include a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), gender-specific programming for men and women, and a robust aftercare program. 

When you’re ready to stop abusing substances and start living a healthier and more hopeful life, the Peachtree Recovery Solutions team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, visit our admissions page or call us today.