The Medical Profession Needs a Course in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues – Part 1

When we treat people with substance abuse and mental health issues we do so from a holistic perspective which includes physical, mental, spiritual and social change.  Basically dealing with clients from a four dimensional approach of recovery. The chair you are sitting on has four legs. All four legs are needed to balance and secure your comfort within the chair. If a leg is missing, the balance of the chair can still be maintained but only at the expense of the person who is sitting in it. All the legs of the chair are equally important. The four dimensional approach to recovery in reality says that all aspects of recovery are essential in maintaining a lasting recovery and productive lifestyle.

Today I want to discuss the leg of the physical aspect of the healing process of recovery, and the physical adverse effects of this disease. The deterioration of the body is clear and well documented. When a person uses a substance for a long period of time the consequences could be chronic and in some cases, fatal. Now that I have built  a clock to tell the time I want to discuss the need for medical health care workers, which includes doctors and nurses, to be required as one of their prerequisites courses information on treating their patients with identifiable symptoms of addiction disorders.

For instance, about 20 years ago after sharing with my new physician my past history as a heroin addict, a week later he wrote me a pain medication prescription for an opiate-based drug without once asking pertinent questions or counseling on the adverse effects of the drug. I believe he had good intentions and treated me in accordance to his training. However, good intentions is not good enough when it comes to critical issues of treating people who have diseases that are not within their scope of practice. I recently reviewed the prerequisites courses that are mandatory at medical schools, “Professional Prerequisite Courses”. There are courses such as “Human Anatomy”, “Microbiology”, “Statistics”, including statistical test and analysis, and there is a host of mandatory courses such as “Cell Biology” and “Biochemistry”, however none of the courses connected the dots of addiction such as alcoholism and substance abuse.

I believe if we are to be effective in the healing process, we must provide our up and coming medical doctors the proper education concerning the diagnosis and the distribution of medicine to our addicted population.

By the way, there are some courses that they phrase as “Non-medically related Sciences” not mandatory such as “Social and Behavioral Sciences”  ‘abnormal Psychology’, ‘Human Growth and Development’, ‘Human Sexuality’, ‘Medical Ethics’. I believe that some of these courses should be prerequisites courses including “Addictionology”. I will volunteer to teach this course because I feel very strongly about it. Why? I have lost 6 brothers and several family members to this devastating disease and it is that physical leg that was primarily out of balance. A friend of mine at this very moment is hospitalize with pneumonia as a result of improper instruction while receiving chemotherapy. He was not asked further questions even after his wife reveal to the doctor information concerning her husband addiction to alcohol. I don’t know why the reluctance to address these issues that place the patient body in additional stresses and devastation. However I do know we must continue to address this potential health issue and educate our medical health care workers. Let’s keep the conversation going.


3 Comments to The Medical Profession Needs a Course in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues – Part 1

  1. Amen! Same goes for the public at large, schools, churches and all those sworn to protect and serve communities. We are all in this together, folks!

  2. I’d like to add…..more than 80 percent of Americans had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year, placing doctors in a unique position, not only to prescribe medications, but also to identify abuse (or non-medical use) of prescription drugs and prevent the escalation to addiction. Healthcare professionals are very often, our “front lines”. They are also very often, “prime enablers”. Addiction education should be a major component of their training……particularly in this day and age.
    How about more comprehensive screenings??? By asking about all drugs, physicians can more readily recognize that a problem exists, set recovery goals, and seek appropriate treatment. Screening for prescription drug abuse can be incorporated into routine medical visits. Doctors should also take note of rapid increases in the amount of medication needed or frequent, unscheduled refill requests. Doctors should be alert to the fact that those addicted to prescription drugs will most likely engage in doctor shopping in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions for the drugs they abuse.
    A former client went for a Vivitrol injection. He simply advised the doctor that he had been clean/sober for 7 days. The doctor believed him. He left the office and collapsed in the parking lot. He was on life support for 3 days………what a crime. Shame on that doctor!!!

  3. Frankly I doubt that drug use among welfare recipients is any higher than any other portion of the

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