Addiction is a treatable disease, but successful treatment is not often simple. For this reason, anyone suffering from this disease is encouraged to seek professional medical attention rather than attempt to go through it alone. For the same reason, medical professionals are required to be certified with training and credentials that will help them to perform standardized analysis, form reasonable and result-focused treatment plans, and monitor and follow up on any patients who need their extended services. Certification of professionals is intended to standardize and monitor their practice, making the addiction recovery field ever more experienced, educated and effective.
The abilities of those involved in treating addiction sufferers must be diverse, as addiction treatment includes literally every area of a patient’s life. Addiction help professionals are expected to meet national competency standards across a very large range of skills. For this reason, training for addiction medicine is quite unique.
What Is Involved in the Practice of an Addiction Treatment Professional
The main goal of a credentialed addiction professional should be not only to help a user stop the compulsive use and seeking of substance, but also to aid that substance user to return to a functional role in society with a proper development and exhibition of mental and emotional health.
This sort of complicated treatment practice must be geared to treat people all ages, as addiction impacts all ages and developmental levels. Therefore, addiction and mental health professionals must learn different ways that people in separate age categories and health backgrounds are affected by drugs and treatment. Addiction professionals must also be aware of how each drug impacts the body and brain.
According to the Research-Based Guide on Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, components of comprehensive drug abuse treatment must include1:
- Psychosocial history of the individual, including childhood and development
- Mental health care (possibly behavioral therapy and counseling)
- Medical treatment plans, substance use monitoring and medications (perhaps including a medically supervised detoxification program)
- Educational self-help and peer support groups
- HIV/Aids testing and treatment
- Legal aid as needed
- Financial counseling as needed
- Housing support and planning assistance
- Continual care, such as alumni services, discharge plans or follow-up treatment
In order to help an addict to complete a lifestyle adjustment, the addiction professional must also understand family dynamics and family therapy and treatment. Credentialed addiction treatment providers are equipped to handle emotional situations that may cause stress to their patient on the home front as they strive to recover from their addicted state.
The education that an addiction specialist receives is comprehensive enough to train them to help addicts through even periods of poor decision-making and physical relapse.
How Addiction Treatment Credentials Are Required and Provided
The NAADAC, or National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, labels itself as an Association for Addiction Professionals that includes “addiction counselors, educators and other addiction-focused health care professionals.” 2 The addiction treatment field is ever increasing, as the variety of services grows year after year. These professionals are all involved in some way in “counseling, prevention, intervention, treatment, education and research.” They must learn to work in both private and public centers, community health agencies, and hospitals. This organization offers the following certification programs:
- National Certified Addiction Counselor
- Dependence Specialist credential
- Masters Addiction Counselor
Certification in such addiction medicine educational courses thereby permits (according to the U.S. Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000) physicians to prescribe “narcotic drugs… to patients for maintenance or detoxification treatment.” 3 There are many recognized training programs available. The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP) helps potential addiction counselors to meet eligibility criteria by gaining the credentialed titles of a National Certified Addiction Counselor or Master Addiction Counselor with Co-Occurring Disorders. 4
The American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) recognizes graduates in two categories: Addiction treatment physicians and addiction treatment psychiatrists. Notably, some who become physicians within the addiction treatment field have prior training and practice in another field of medicine. They may choose to widen their scope of practice to addicts in general, or to limit themselves to those patients that they serviced before who also suffer from addiction complications. Either way, when addiction is part of the treatment process, the ABAM recognized credentials are required. Psychiatrists and their prescription practices are monitored and continually trained thanks in part to their cooperation with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Each of these organizations ensures that those who move in to treat patients have the education, experience, and examination necessary before influencing the lives of others in this way.
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1http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-drug-addiction-treatment. National Institute on Drug Abuse “Research-Based Guide on Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment” Retrieved 12/3/15.
2 http://www.naadac.org/about. NAADAC, Association for Addiction Professionals “About NAADAC”. Retrieved 12/3/15.
3 http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/what-is-an-addiction-specialist. American Society of Medicine “What is an addiction Specialist?” Retrieved 12/3/15.
4 http://www.naadac.org/ncc-ap. National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals “NCC AP Credentials overview”. Retrieved 12/3/15.