Doctors Know Less about Substance Abuse Than You Think
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission“is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.” The new director of SAMHSA is Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, who is an addiction specialist.
Having an addiction specialist is a step in the right direction – but not as big of a step as you might think.
What you need to know about medical training in regard to substance abuse
We don’t need to rehash America’s substance abuse problem. The current estimate is two million people addicted to opiates and opioids alone, many of whom get no treatment at all. In 2015, the National Institutes of Health reported that an estimated 15.1 million adults suffered with an alcohol abuse disorder. The numbers are clear.
The problem, though, is that the vast majority of doctors in this country have little to no experience when it comes to treating addiction. Harvard Medical School, in the early 2000s, only offered about 7 hours’ worth of training or coursework in the area of addiction – out of six years of schooling. As of 2016, HMS had no intention of even including opioid prescription guidelines into their courses because “its curriculum was comprehensive enough.”
Stanford began offering a one-year Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program, and “took measures to provide stand-alone addiction lectures instead of merging them into the psychiatry series,” but that’s one school out of more than 170.
This is a problem. In every accredited medical school in the country, students are taught to recognize the signs of illness. They are taught how to test for those illnesses. They are taught how to treat those illnesses.
But only one medical school has actually recognized that addiction is an illness that needs to be studied for more than a few hours. And that means that there are doctors in our country – right here in Pennsylvania, even – who are trying to “cure” an illness which they know nothing about, with tools they don’t know how to use, to get results they cannot predict.
This is a problem.
One hundred and twenty-six people died a day from overdoses and drug-related causes in 2017. Medical doctors have no idea how to handle that. They don’t know what to do, because no one is willing to train them to do it. So, yes – it’s great that SAMHSA has a director who understands that addiction is a medical specialty; but until the rest of the medical field, as a whole, begins to understand and believe that treating addiction requires the same type of work, skill and experience as performing open-heart surgery does, then addicts are not going to get the care they need.
How do I know which recovery program I can trust to help me?
Thankfully, there are medical programs and certifications that can help doctors and counselors learn to treat addiction. The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals offers three levels of certification for addictions specialists to become Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors. Each level requires thousands of hours of supervised experience in order to complete them, to ensure that these professionals are competent and able to help. Different states may have additional requirements, too.
That is why it is so important that, if you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you seek treatment from professionals who have undergone extensive training and education in addiction and recovery services. Our founder, Andy Pace, and our head of Residential care, and our Clinical Director, Katie McKendry, holds multiple degrees and certifications in Counseling and Rehabilitation. Counselor Steve Schwartz is a Certified Associate Addiction Counselor by the Pennsylvania Certification Board. As you can see, many of the people who work at Little Creek Lodge hold certifications in addiction and counseling, and many more are pursuing degrees and certifications now.
This is one of the things that sets Little Creek apart from other programs. Because our team has undergone extensive training, coursework, and fieldwork in addiction and recovery, we know what works. So much of the medical field’s approach to addiction and recovery is like trying to fix a broken dam with a piece of tape: it’s not enough, because they haven’t been trained in the root causes of addiction. They rely on MAT as the cure, not a stop-gap measure for helping people through the next step of the process. We have no doubt that medical doctors truly want to help their patients – but they don’t know how, and their medical schools don’t seem terribly keen on trying to teach them.
We know what works. We know it because we’ve seen it in action. Our lives have been dedicated to helping people through the addiction recovery process. We understand the underlying connection to mental health, plus the cultural aspects of abusing drugs and alcohol, and we see how these are just two parts of a whole.
But mostly, when you feel like the world is coming down around you, we understand that, too. We know what you’re afraid to say, to yourself and others, and we know how loneliness and fear can drive a man deeper into himself and into his addiction.
It’s okay. We’ve got your back.
No matter what it is you’re struggling with, the addiction counselors of Little Creek Lodge will walk with you until you’re ready to walk on your own. Our goal is to give you a light and a hand and to get you back on the path to your true self. If you’re ready to take that step, please call 570-630-9354, or fill out our contact form. We’re ready, able, and willing to help.