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Spring 2010
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Options Available to Patients with Addiction


With the emergence of new anti-addiction medications and the reality that a patient’s addiction to drugs and/or alcohol often is first encountered by primary care physicians, a nationwide effort is underway to improve substance-abuse treatment in the primary care setting.

“The majority of people with drug or alcohol problems aren’t getting the help they need because they won’t or can’t get to a specialty treatment program or a psychiatrist,” says Keith Heinzerling, M.D., a UCLA internist and addiction-medicine specialist. “As primary care physicians, we can’t put our heads in the sand and ignore these problems, or assume the patient will seek help elsewhere.”

To address this need, the UCLA Family Health Center in Santa Monica has launched a program to provide comprehensive outpatient addiction and/or smoking cessation treatment to adults and adolescents, integrating the service into the patients’ ongoing primary care.

The program serves as a complement to residential and specialty outpatient substance-abuse treatment programs.

There are, for example, drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are proven effective to treat addiction to alcohol and opiods — drugs such as heroin or, more commonly, prescription pain killers — and that can be prescribed by a primary physician.

“Addiction is multifaceted and often requires practitioners from different disciplines to truly address,” says Timothy Fong, M.D., director of the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “Opening up more fronts with various specialists who can provide treatment is very helpful.” Dr. Fong explains that most addicted patients have underlying psychiatric conditions as well as primary healthcare needs that need to be addressed.

To learn more about substance-abuse programs at UCLA, go to: 

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