Addiction psychiatry is a branch of psychiatric practice that deals with overcoming many forms of physical and psychological addiction. Addiction psychiatrists undergo years of training to understand the proper treatments for helping their patients and may further specialize in a specific area of addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, or psychological addiction to sex or gambling.
Addiction is a physical or psychological dependence on a substance or behavior. In medical terms, it is the result of the body being unable to maintain a normal state without use of an artificial substance. Psychological addiction is closely related to compulsion, in which the body or mind seeks a rewarding chemical reaction from behavior that may be in some way harmful. There are many factors that can lead to addiction, from genetics to traumatic experiences or mental disorders. Understanding and combating addictions can be an incredibly difficult practice, and the goal of addiction psychiatry is to aid addicts in their recovery process.
The practice of addiction psychiatry is a relatively new area to psychological medicine. Because of the traditional codes of shame and silence about addiction, it is only within the last 100 years that the idea of treating addicts has come to light. With advanced understanding of the chemical reaction to addiction and the psychological factors included in the process, addiction psychiatry has advanced tremendously since the mid-20th century. It is often recommended for recovering addicts in addition to other treatments or therapies, and is sometimes court-ordered as part of prison-alternative sentencing.
Addiction psychiatrists often use a combination of medicine and psychotherapy to help addicts fight their specific addiction. This can include the use of drugs to combat withdrawal symptoms consistent with denying the body or mind its drug of choice. They also conduct extensive studies on the process of addiction and how it can be prevented.
It may seem inconsistent to fight an addiction with medical drugs, some of which carry addiction risks of their own. The theory behind complementary medical treatment of addicts is that the drugs used act like a nicotine patch. Instead of going completely off the addictive substance or practice and suffering serious withdrawal, the medicines used in addiction psychiatry provide a gradually lessening dose of the chemical reaction that the body is craving.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction, meeting with an addiction psychiatrist may be the first step to recovery. Check with your local mental health resources to see where treatment is available in your area. There are many ways to fight addiction, and some may be more suitable to specific addictions than others. Contacting a qualified addiction psychiatrist may help you determine what the best course of action is for yourself or for someone you care about.