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Addiction 101

by George Menexis September 11, 2012
Addiction 101

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 15 will experience a dependence to either drugs or alcohol. Though there are numerous support groups out there to help deal with this disease, the rate will likely only increase unless steps are taken to help doctors learn how to help their patients.

The health care system in this country is not fully equipped to deal with the ever-growing problem of addiction. There are barely any training programs for doctors, nurses, and specialists when it comes to dealing with addiction in its many forms. This desperately needs to change, for it is disheartening to live in a society where people can’t get sufficient treatment for such a common and difficult disease.

Dr. Evan Wood is a Vancouver medical doctor focusing on inner-city medicine. This lack of training for doctors, said Wood, extends beyond the shortcomings of British Columbia’s system.

“The problem is typical of all Canadian provinces,” he said. “Dedicated and caring as they usually are, most Canadian physicians who consider themselves addiction medicine specialists assembled their knowledge about addiction treatment after completing their medical training.”

What Canada really needs are doctors and specialists who know exactly how to approach addiction and have formal training, as well as experience in the field. We need to teach physicians how to help people who are struggling with such deeply personal and psychological issues, using the latest scientific and therapeutic advances.

Wood has familiarized himself with many addiction centres in and around the country and believes that having a trained doctor when it comes to dealing with addiction can make all the difference.

“What was really eye-opening from my visit to [the Boston Medical Center’s Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit] was the impact that a skilled addiction medicine workforce can have in turning patients’ lives around,” he said.

Canada needs to invest more time and money in the creation of programs where such skills and techniques can be taught and developed. Hope is not lost though, said Wood, referring to a new initiative which could prove game-changing in the fight to improve addiction treatment.

“A potentially ground-shifting opportunity has emerged with the recent establishment of the American Board of Addiction Medicine,” he said. “The board has created guidelines for the development of addiction medicine fellowship programs enabling Canadian medical schools to create programs that are eligible for full accreditation.”

Now it’s Canada’s turn to invest more money and time, in order to create effective addiction training programs, and stop ignoring the larger problem at work.

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