Specialists have long debated whether alcoholism is a psychological illness requiring counseling and therapy or a physical disease that demands continuing medical treatment.
A recent article in The New York Times (“Rethinking Addiction’s Roots, and Its Treatment”) looks at the reasons behind both arguments and the growing belief that addiction should be treated with continuous medical treatment similar to diabetes or epilepsy.
Supporting the latter theory, 10 medical establishments have recently introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, including:
- St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York
- University of Maryland Medical System
- University at Buffalo School of Medicine
- University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
- University of Minnesota Medical School
- University of Florida College of Medicine
- John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
- Marworth Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center, Waverly, PA
- Boston University Medical Center
The American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) is responsible for the new accreditation. But the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education must also accredit the program in order for it to become a “primary” residency on par with other residencies like oncology, pediatrics or dermatology. To reach that step the program will need to be offered at a minimum of 20 institutions.
Medical students interested in dependency treatment now have a path to pursue and should definitely consider this new specialty. While there are always risks to being in a guinea pig program, medical students passionate about addiction medicine have a lot to gain. David Withers—the man who oversees the new residency program at Marworth—believes it is “a first step toward bringing recognition, respectability and rigor to addiction medicine.”
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