- by Medical Group of Pennsylvania
Doctors, nurse practitioners and health professionals work tirelessly to keep patients as healthy as possible. This work often primarily focuses around the patients’ physical wellbeing, but there’s also a critical opportunity to incorporate prevention, treatment and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders into your practice.
The most important step is to learn how to identify potential problems and know how to get your patient the care and resources he or she needs. The American Society of Addiction Medicine Education provides training and educational resources to health care professionals who wish to incorporate evidence-based substance use disorder treatment and prevention services into their practice.
Break the Stigma
Only about 10% of Americans suffering from substance abuse seek treatment. In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the general public was more likely to have negative attitudes towards individuals dealing with drug addiction than those who were dealing with mental illness. This powerful story shares a peek into one alcohol and heroin addict’s life and the effects of stigma.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, scientific progress has helped us understand that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. It is a disease that can be treated – and treated successfully. No one chooses to develop this disease. Instead, a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental stimulus – analogous to other chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension – can result in physical changes to the brain’s circuitry, which lead to tolerance, cravings, and the characteristic compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction that are such a large public health burden for our nation. Put simply, individuals with substance use disorders are patients who need treatment.
Spread the Word
Share your experiences and what you’ve learned with fellow health professionals. Encourage them to incorporate screening techniques into their practices as well. Focus on treating the person as a whole instead of fixating on a single ailment or aspect of their care.
Integrate Into Your PCP Practices
Working behavioral health resources and information into annual exams can save lives. In 2016, 43.1% of adults aged 18 or older with any mental illness received mental health services. This means more than half (56.9 percent) of adults with a mental illness did not receive the mental health services they needed in 2016. This could be because they weren’t sure where to go, were afraid to speak to anyone about their problems or were fearful of being stigmatized. By being open minded and asking a few quick screening questions, you can better serve your patients and keep them healthy in body and mind.
Learn more about integrating behavioral health services into the broader health care system at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Additional resources for general substance abuse and mental health are available at RecoveryMonth.gov.