Addiction Psychiatrist: Your Expert in Substance Abuse Treatment
What is an addiction psychiatrist?
An addiction psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse and the mental health conditions that accompany it. Addiction psychiatrists treat people of all ages who have addictions to illegal drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications complicated by coexisting mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
An addiction psychiatrist typically:
Evaluates a patient’s medical history, history of substances the patient is using or has used, and mental health status
Diagnoses psychiatric diseases and conditions including substance addiction, depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, sleep disorders, and eating disorder
Assesses a person’s ability to perform everyday living activities, such as eating, dressing and driving
Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests
Provides comprehensive substance abuse treatment and addiction therapy, such as talk therapy. In some cases, the doctor will refer patients to a dedicated addiction therapist for more frequent counseling sessions.
Prescribes medications, helps manage their usage, determines if the medication is working, and monitors side effects
Provides detoxification treatment to safely wean patients off the substances
Consults with other members of a patient’s medical team including primary care doctors, neurologists, neuropsychologists, social workers, home healthcare nurses, and occupational therapists
- Conducts involuntary commitment and psychiatric treatment when necessary
Addiction psychiatrists may also be known by the following names: addictionologist, addiction doctor, and substance abuse doctor.
Who should see an addiction psychiatrist?
People of all ages who have a substance addiction disorder should consider seeing an addiction psychiatrist. People with a history of substance abuse and who have a mental health disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder should also consider seeing an addiction psychiatrist.
In many cases, people who see an addiction psychiatrist are referred by an addiction therapist, psychologist, general psychiatrist, or primary care doctor. In addition, patients who are voluntarily or involuntarily admitted to an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment center will most likely be treated by a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction.
Substance abuse itself affects your mental and physical health. If you or a family member is abusing or addicted to drugs, seeking help from an addiction psychiatrist may prevent serious and permanent mental and physical diseases, disorders and conditions due to excessive, long-term exposure to drugs.
When should you see an addiction psychiatrist?
Consider seeking care from an addiction psychiatrist if you abuse prescription medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs. An addiction psychiatrist can help you with the substance abuse itself as well as the following emotional or lifestyle-related symptoms:
Feelings of needing to take the substance regularly and frequently
Inability to stop taking the substance
Irritability or anxiety when the substance is not available
Hiding your use of the substance from people who care about you
Exhibiting negative behaviors, such as lying or stealing
Losing interest in activities that do not involve using the substance, such as working, spending time with your family, and participating in hobbies you used to enjoy
Spending excessive amounts of money on alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs
Participating in risky behaviors, such as engaging multiple sexual partners and driving while impaired
What does an addiction psychiatrist treat?
An addiction psychiatrist treats the following diseases, disorders and conditions:
Dementia including loss of memory, language and personality
Impulse control disorders including kleptomania
Mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder
Personality disorders including antisocial personality disorder
Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia and delusional disorder
Sleep disorders including insomnia and night terrors
What does an addiction psychiatrist test?
An addiction psychiatrist can order or perform a wide variety of diagnostic and screening tests to diagnose chronic and acute mental health issues in patients with substance abuse disorders. These tests include:
Imaging tests including X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check for brain abnormalities
IQ and related tests to assess the patient’s thinking process (cognitive function)
Laboratory tests including blood tests to monitor medication levels, complete blood count (CBC), urine tests, blood glucose (sugar) test, liver function tests, kidney function tests, and drug testing
Testing for specific psychiatric disorders including mood, anxiety, psychotic, and personality disorders
What procedures and treatments does an addiction psychiatrist perform?
Addiction psychiatrists order or perform various procedures and treatments to manage substance abuse disorders and the mental health conditions that often occur with them. Addiction psychiatrists may help you recover in an inpatient rehabilitation center or on an outpatient basis in their private office or clinic. Common procedures and treatments addiction psychiatrists perform include:
Detoxification treatment including supportive treatment for withdrawal symptoms and physical cravings
Involuntary commitment and treatment for extreme, uncontrollable cases of drug abuse and mental illness
Medications including drugs for alcoholism and narcotic abuse, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and sedative-hypnotics
Psychotherapy treatments including psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, marriage and family counseling, and group therapy. The goal of addiction therapy and substance abuse treatment is to help you live a sober and drug-free life.
Addiction psychiatrist training and certification
Even if you are referred to an addiction psychiatrist by your personal physician or a therapist, you still want an addiction specialist with excellent credentials. Most addiction psychiatrists are board certified in the specialty, but a psychiatrist may practice addiction psychiatry without becoming board certified in the subspecialty. Education, training, experience, and board certification in addiction psychiatry are key elements in establishing a doctor’s level of competence and make it more likely you will receive excellent care.
A board-certified addiction psychiatrist is a licensed MD or DO who has completed specialty and subspecialty training, and passed certification exams. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certifies psychiatrists in addiction psychiatry and the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry certifies psychiatrists or neurologists with added qualifications in addiction medicine.
To maintain board certification in addiction psychiatry or addiction medicine, the doctor must participate in an ongoing certification program. Keep in mind there are physicians who practice addiction medicine but they may not be psychiatrists. Search Healthgrades.com for a board-certified addiction psychiatrist or a psychiatrist who practices addiction medicine. You can research board certification, review insurance plans they accept, see patient reviews and ratings, and find doctors in your area.