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My doctor says I need help for medication abuse. What do I do now?

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Updated July 24, 2011

Question: My doctor says I need help for medication abuse. What do I do now?
Answer:

Unfortunately, although physicians can prescribe a large number of addictive medications, many are unaware of the complexities of how medication abuse and addictions develop. Moreover, they are not always best prepared for how to address such problems when they arise.

In the worst-case scenario, the physician may prescribe increasingly large doses of medications, such as painkillers and tranquilizers, fail to carefully monitor the patient, and then blame the patient for medication abuse or drug seeking when they can't cope without the drug.

If you are ever unsure about the care you're receiving or the opinions you're getting, or if you feel as though you may be relying on your medication too much, seek a second opinion.

If your doctor (or doctors) is right that you are abusing medication, you need specialized medical care from a physician who not only understands how you became addicted, but can also closely monitor and adjust your medications so that any underlying conditions are effectively and appropriately treated. In addition, unnecessarily high doses of addictive medications will need to be appropriately and safely tapered down.

To make sure you get the specialized care you need, you can enter an addiction treatment program, or seek care from an American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) physician.

ABAM certifies addiction medicine physicians across a range of medical specialties. These physicians handle everything from diagnosis of addiction to treatment, prescription, and advocacy. They can also detect and treat other problems that may be underlying medication abuse, such as depression and anxiety.

Perhaps most importantly, an ABAM physician will understand the emotional distress of your medication abuse or addiction, and will not judge or blame you.

As of October 2009, U.S. legislation requires that private insurance companies cover addiction treatment in the same ways that all other medical and surgical care is covered. This, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the stigma and discrimination that people with addictions have faced for many years.

Finding an ABAM physician is as easy as visiting their website ( www.ABAM.net). Click on "Find a Doctor," and type in your city and state to find providers near you.

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  5. When a Doctor Says You Need Help for Medication Abuse

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