When it comes to addiction treatment, it’s not just psychologists, therapists, and drug and alcohol counselors who work to help you in recovery. Psychiatrists, who are physicians that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders, are just as likely to be part of your addiction treatment.
“Many psychiatrists do treat addictions,” says San Diego-based psychiatrist Dr. David Reiss. “There is a sub-specialty of ‘addictionologists’ who primarily deal with addictions, but essentially all of us at least deal with dual diagnosis patients, and will take part in the treatment of the addiction.”
Psychiatrists play a major role during detoxification, the first phase of addiction treatment when addicts are safely weaned off dangerous substances. Because addiction can affect the brain’s neurochemistry, the medical expertise of psychiatrists is necessary.
When substance abuse co-occurs with another psychiatric disorder (a dual diagnosis), such as depression, anxiety, or Bipolar Disorder, treatment generally involves medication and behavioral therapy techniques, along with psychiatric consultation.
What Types of Psychiatrists Treat Addiction?
A psychiatrist who treats drug and alcohol addiction will normally have a sub-specialty training in addiction. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology provides certification in the subspecialty of addiction psychiatry. Addiction psychiatrists may treat any one or all of the following conditions: alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction, or sex addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) also provides a certification in addiction for physicians.
Psychiatrists who treat drug or alcohol addiction will look into the patient’s history and when the early signs of trouble began to appear. Addiction psychiatrists work with patients to determine the reasons for the development of their drug or alcohol addiction. If there is a need, they can prescribe medication to control withdrawal symptoms and treat underlying or co-existing psychiatric disorders.
Finding a Psychiatrist for Addiction Treatment
While addiction psychiatrists can be a great resource for people looking for addiction treatment, care must be taken when deciding on a particular doctor. When looking for an addiction psychiatrist, check to make sure they are licensed. Psychiatrists are supposed to renew their license to practice every 10 years. Also make sure they have certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or ASAM.
If you’re going to a general psychiatrist, make sure they have enough experience dealing with addiction cases.
Addiction psychiatrists can treat people in a private practice, work in a hospital, or be part of a treatment team. Addiction treatment centers typically have psychiatrists as part of their team.
It might be more helpful for you in the long-term to approach a psychiatrist with a sub-specialty of addiction psychiatry when seeking addiction treatment because they have the required expertise and experience to make a diagnosis for co-occurring psychiatric disorders.