Aside from those doctors that specialize in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, they are not required to undergo training in substance abuse diagnosis, or treatment for the disease of addiction. In this case, unfamiliarity breeds contempt. The lack of knowledge leads to the misunderstanding of addiction, and the proper way to address and treat it. It is a complex brain disease that can change brain structure, hinder a person’s ability to control impulses, or make good decisions. Although there is no cure, it is important to select a primary care provider that is well educated in how to manage the disease, and help you sustain recovery.
In 2012, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse did a study looking at the gap between the science and the practice of addiction medicine; they found that the board certification exam hardly mentions addiction. This leaves many doctors unfamiliar with addiction, and more likely to be negatively biased when treating patients suffering from it. Because they are in the dark about the mechanisms of addiction, they become more likely to blame substance using patients, as well as view them as manipulative, weak, and indulgent rather than sick. This transference is then often then picked up by patients, and can add to the blame, shame, and desire to keep their problem to themselves.
Although the Affordable Care Act and parity laws have recently gotten addiction and substance abuse treatment covered under mainstream medicine, many doctors still do not think of it as part of routine care. Research has shown a great relation between poor training in the care of patients with addiction, and doctors not feeling confident enough to treat it. This has often left patients suffering from addiction feeling alienated, and left to deal with this monster of a disease on their own; which as well all know in the addiction field is not the way to find and maintain recovery from substance abuse. As an addict/ alcoholic, or a family member with one, it is important to work with your insurance company to find doctors that can cater to this disease, in order to receive the best care possible. As we have stated above; addiction is a complex illness, so make sure to be aware, get educated, and then find references and referrals to assist you.