In the process of recovering from substance use disorders, an often overlooked entity is the general physician (GP). Various constituents of the recovery process, including therapists, sponsors, support groups, family and friends have an important part to play; however, GPs can provide a critical level of support in preventing substance abuse and maintaining sobriety during withdrawal. People who abuse substances usually suffer from one or more medical issues such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, liver disorders, lung disorders and cancer. In such a situation, GPs can play a vital role in ensuring the health and well-being of patients.
Recovery from a chronic condition, such as addiction requires continuous attention and long-term care. This is helpful in ascertaining the underlying reasons for dependency on substances, which can lead to prevention in many cases. It also assists in avoiding occurrences of relapse. Providing holistic treatment options to individuals suffering from addiction is medically prudent and leads to lower health care costs. As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), integrated treatment for substance abuse and physical health disorders leads to improvement in both conditions.
Physicians can do more than just treat physical illnesses
GPs are typically consulted in case of physical illnesses and not in cases of substance use disorders. However, GPs play a crucial role in treating substance abuse issues in the following ways:
- Prescription of anti-addiction medication: Anti-addiction medication such as Suboxone, Vivitrol, Antabuse and Campral may often be prescribed by GPs to recover from substance abuse, and reduce cravings and dependence. These medications need to be taken under strict supervision and GPs can be of vital assistance.
- Dietary habits: Dependency on drugs and alcohol robs the body of essential nutrients and causes various parts of the body like the digestive system to malfunction. GPs can assist in recommending a proper nutritional plan and changes to dietary habits to improve physical and mental health.
- Professional references: Physicians are not addiction specialists and they are not equipped to offer a complete range of anti-addiction services. However, they can provide vital information about and professional references of individuals or institutions for specialized recovery options.
- Comprehensive treatment: GPs who have been providing continuous care are familiar with patients’ past history of illnesses, prescription medications, allergic reactions and other medical or personal information. Therefore, they can offer more comprehensive treatment options to patients to improve their overall health.
Substance abuse leads to depletion of nutrients in the body, and their toxic components cause adverse physiological repercussions. GPs can undertake regular physical examinations and recommend diagnostic tests to assess the damage caused by addictive substances. Appropriate treatment can then be recommended for improvement in physical health and overall well-being. GPs can also monitor patients continuously during the healing process.
Physicians need more training and awareness regarding addiction and its impact
Past research has highlighted the increasingly important role played by physicians in preventing and treating addiction. For this to happen, physicians need to be better equipped to recognize and manage addictive disorders. Physicians need greater awareness of the financial implications of addictive disorders as well as enhanced training opportunities to manage substance use disorders. It also necessitates inclusion of addiction care as part of the curriculum in medical schools.
Impediments to care such as lower payments from insurers and prior approval of insurance companies to administer buprenorphine to patients are few obstacles that make physicians and other primary care providers reluctant to treat patients with addiction. Removal of such barriers and introduction of proper training mechanisms will ensure that the stigma associated with addiction is eliminated making the treatment as accessible and standardized as physical illnesses.
If you know someone who is addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs, contact the California Detox Helpline to find state-of-the-art detox and rehab centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online with our experts for more details on addiction treatment centers in California.