I treat addiction because I’m a family physician. Although most physicians received insufficient education on addiction, we all see people with addiction in our daily practice of medicine. Family doctors encounter a variety of mental health problems, including substance abuse disorders. Why then, would I not treat addiction? Family medicine attracted me because of the relationships I establish with my patients, which enables me to know them and tailor treatment for each individual.
While I saw many patients with alcoholism, nicotine addiction, and cocaine addiction in residency, when I moved to Kentucky, I was introduced to opioid addiction. Upon realizing that treatment was scarce here, I decided to obtain my DATA 2000 waiver and prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone. Once I started treating people with opioid dependence and observing the dramatic change in their lives, I knew I was called to treat addiction. I encourage family doctors to learn how to treat this chronic disease that is similar in many ways to other chronic diseases we treat, including diabetes, obesity, and COPD. In order to recruit more physicians and help more patients, we must work together to address the stigma that surrounds this disease, which affects all families, including mine.