How to Become a Specialized Addictions Specialist
Mental health professionals are qualified to treat substance misuse and substance use disorders, as are certified substance abuse counselors. But an addictions specialist holds a medical degree and is licensed to provide the highest level of care for people who are going through the physical, mental and socioemotional turmoil wrought by alcohol and drug addiction. They are also qualified to treat many health conditions caused by long-term substance abuse and understand the complex neurology underscoring addiction. If your dream is to help people overcome their drug problems and live well despite the lifelong health effects it can create, then read on to discover how to become an addictions specialist doctor.
What is an Addictions Specialist?
If you investigate careers in substance abuse treatment, the most common you will find is a substance abuse counselor role. These individuals hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling, and many specialized their degrees to center around the various addiction models and their empirical treatments. You will also psychologists and psychiatrists work with addiction populations, but only a psychiatrist holds a medical degree. An addictions specialist is actually a medical doctor who has chosen to specialize in substance abuse treatment. They are able to receive additional certification from one of the following accrediting boards:
- The American Board of Preventive Medicine.
- The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
- The American Board of Addiction Medicine
- The American Osteopathic Association
- How to Become an Addictions Specialist Doctor
You will first have to complete your bachelor’s degree before attending medical school. There are no formal bachelor’s degree requirements to become a doctor, so you can major in whatever you like. This is a great opportunity to study some of your passions on the road to your career goals. Academic advisors can help you map out course selections that make sense and optimize for your personal goals. Many physicians major in subjects like English and history, but students with physical science degrees have the highest med school acceptance rates. Biology and psychology degrees are also worthy considerations.
Once you’ve completed your undergraduate, it is time to begin applying for med school. Naturally, this is also the point to consider your finances and the impact your studies will have on your future. Becoming a doctor is one of the most expensive degree options, so you will need to factor debt into your budget for years to come. One way to make paying for the cost of your education more manageable is to take out a student loan from a private lender. Borrowing from a private lender gives you greater control over the terms, including the interest rate, repayment schedule and refinancing options. Using a private loan to pay for your medical degree may also help you afford other necessary expenses more easily while you study as well.
Complete Your Training
Once you have graduated med school and finished your residency, you will be able to pursue additional certification from one of the boards mentioned above. To become a specialist, you will have to undergo additional training to learn about the neurobiology affecting substance abuse and learn various medical interventions and treatments, psychopharmacological treatment options and behavioral health models. Every little bit helps so, research opportunities for healthcare scholarships to discover if you are eligible for any that may pertain to the training and certifications that you will need.