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Keywords:

  • Addiction medicine;
  • addiction psychiatry;
  • profession;
  • specialty;
  • stigma;
  • training;
  • treatment

ABSTRACT

Aims  The clinical practice and science of addiction are increasingly active fields, which are attracting professionals from diverse disciplines such as psychology and neurobiology. Our scientific knowledge of the pathophysiology of addiction is rapidly growing, along with the variety of effective treatments available to clinicians. Yet, we believe that the medical specialties of addiction medicine/psychiatry are not attracting the interest and enthusiasm of young physicians. What can be done?

Methods  We offer the opinions of two experience addiction psychiatrists.

Results  In the US, there has been a decline in the number of psychiatrists seeking training or board certification in addiction psychiatry; about one-third of graduates with such training are not practicing in an addiction psychiatry setting. There is widespread neglect of addiction medicine/psychiatry among the medical profession, academia and national health authorities. This neglect is unfortunate, given the enormous societal costs of addiction (3–5% of the gross domestic product in some developed countries), the substantial unmet need for addiction treatment, and the highly favourable benefit to cost yield (at least 7:1) from treatment.

Conclusions  We believe that addiction medicine/psychiatry can be made more attractive for young physicians. Helpful steps include widening acceptance as a medical specialty or subspecialty, reducing the social stigma against people with substance use disorders, expanding insurance coverage and increasing the low rates of reimbursement for physicians. These steps would be easier to take with broader societal (and political) recognition of substance use disorders as a major cause of premature death, morbidity and economic burden.