Research in the News: Addiction medicine: New specialty to bridge gap between patients and therapy

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(Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

Addiction costs the U.S. economy a half a trillion dollars annually, yet only about one in 10 people who need treatment receive it, even though plenty of proven therapies are available.

In a commentary appearing online Sept. 8 in JAMA Internal Medicine, three doctors — including two from Yale — propose a solution: the aggressive promotion of addiction medicine as a new medical specialty.

“We simply do not have enough specialists to meet demand,” said Yale’s Dr. Patrick O’Connor, who co-authored the commentary with Yale colleague Dr. Gail D’Onofrio and Dr. Robert Sokol of Wayne State. “If I want to find a cardiologist in New Haven or elsewhere in the U.S., I can find many, many outstanding doctors. If I want to find an addiction medicine specialist, there are very few — and the need has never been greater.”

O’Connor and co-authors favor a major expansion of addiction medicine fellowship training for doctors from the full spectrum of primary medical specialties, including internal medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics, OB/GYN and others.

To support this goal, the American Board of Addiction Medicine was created in 2008 and has since certified over 3,000 physicians. It has also been establishing new fellowship programs at medical centers around the country, including at Yale.

“It’s all about bridging the treatment gap,” O’Connor said. “We are just at the very beginning of creating the specialty of addiction medicine, but we hope to establish these programs in every major medical center in the United States in the very near future.”

(Photo via Shutterstock)

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