Psychiatrists Need More Help to Address Addiction

Citing misuse of opiate painkillers as the nation’s highest-priority drug problem, health experts are calling for more attention and resources to address alcohol and other drug addiction, the Dallas Morning News reported May 10.

During a recent meeting of the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said addiction problems could be better addressed by integrating the latest research on addiction into psychiatric practice.

“To me it is very straightforward,” Volkow said. “I’m a psychiatrist, and one of the things that was very frustrating to me was the realization that most psychiatric patients have substance-abuse problems. And yet we were not really properly trained to actually solve these problems.”

Volkow said that addiction is a developmental brain disease that starts in adolescence, or even earlier. Furthermore, Volkow said, the increased availability of painkillers has presented opportunities for legitimate patients, as well as others, to misuse the drugs. For instance, misuse of prescription drugs is growing among the elderly population.

Volkow also urged general practitioners, including pediatricians, to talk to their patients about alcohol and other drug misuse.

“As many as half of all patients in any kind of doctor’s waiting room have a problem with abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other substances,” said Dr. Herbert Kleber, a psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University.” “If you don’t ask, if you don’t look for it, you’re not going to see it.”