All About Addiction

Helping addicts get their lives back

Doctor, Doctor!

One of these doctors is not like the other…and it hurts

At a recent family dinner I had to come to terms with a terrifying thought–I feel less than in the great big doctor battle!

You see, my father was a physician and I grew up believing I would one day wear a white coat and be called "Doctor" by all those who meet me. However, while my sister followed in his footsteps (I'm so proud of her) I ended up taking a different route and getting a Ph.D. in psychology. Of course, a Ph.D. still allows you to demand that others use the Dr. designation when referring to you (and I do take advantage sometimes) but there is no denying that my kind of "doctor" just doesn't feel the same.

I have to make it clear that I love my education and that neither my father nor my sister ever made me feel bad for choosing to become the "lesser doc" in the family. But they don't have to, it's all over the place! DId you know that the Associated Press (AP) allows for the use of Dr. "only for physicians, dentists, members of the paramedical professions, and clergymen who hold earned or honorary doctorate?" That means priests who never went to grad school and optometrists get the covoted title while us psychologists and neuroscientists are left out in the cold. Brrrrr!

Now sure, my bruised feeling don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but this hierarchy shows off some of the general prejudices in our society. When non-physicians treat someone it's considered a worthy effort, a soft-treatment, a compromise. But if medicine comes up with a treatment, the public sighs a great big sigh of relief and insurance companies fork over the money!

I recently spent two days listening to talks from psychologists who are trying to pursuade physician groups that they should include behavioral health in their practice. There was a whole conference on this! Does anyone really believe that behavioral health and physical health are separate entities? I sure don't.

In reality, this is how addiction treatment in the United States became such a mess in the first place–physicians didn't know what to do with addicts so they left them alone and in the hands of Alcoholics Anonymous. Now that pharmacology has developed, everyone (including Nora Volkow from NIDA) is looking for the pill/shot/vaccine that will make it all go away.

I'm a firm believer in a significant biological basis for addiction and yet I have one thing to say–Good luck with all that. Remember Rapid Detox? Prometa? All medically supervised treatment methods that promised to end addiction.  In the meantime, us lesser doctors will keep providing education, talk therapy, and support to make sure that our clients don't have to hold their breath.

© 2013 Adi Jaffe, All Rights Reserved

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Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is the executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health and a lecturer at UCLA and California State University Long Beach.

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