The Gold Standard of Addiction Care

By The Fix staff 03/20/18
If you’re looking for a quality treatment center, you’ll want to chose one that uses only accredited addiction treatment professionals. Here’s why.
A man at a desk, counseling a younger man.

Recently Dr. Jeffrey A. Berman, M.D., DFASAM, the medical director at Soba College Recovery, a treatment center for young adults in New Brunswick, New Jersey, became board certified in addiction medicine. Berman has dedicated decades of his life to treating people with addiction, but the designation was still significant to him, since he has been working for years to make the field of addiction treatment more tightly regulated.

“The problem we have in addiction treatment is that a lot of people fell into the field because it’s a good area to be working in and they want to capture the business,” he says. “But we’ve struggled for years to get recognition and to keep the field as highly trained as possible. For the dedicated doctors, this is not something we do because we can earn extra income: it’s something to which we’ve devoted our lives.”

Berman now holds two specialties in addiction treatment: he is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Board of Preventive Medicine and also board certified in addiction psychiatry by the American Board of Psychology and Neurology.

Many medical specialties and sub-specialties have been recognized for years by The American Board of Medical Specialities. After medical school, doctors who want to be board certified need to undergo additional training in their chosen speciality, whether neurology, gastroenterology, or any other area. Then, they must pass a rigorous certification exam.

Until recently, addiction medicine was not recognized by many as a real speciality, but the new certification allows patients and consumers to chose the most well-qualified doctors to help treat their condition, Berman says.

“Addiction medicine is now a real specialty recognized at the same level as gastroenterology or cardiology,” he says. Now, consumers of addiction treatment can easily find the most well-trained professionals: those who hold board certification.

“We’re raising the bar,” Berman says.

When people are choosing a treatment center they should find out whether the medical staff hold board certifications.

“There are many places, unfortunately, that use physicians who are not board certified. It’s because they’re not willing to be selective,” he says. “In many treatment centers the medical staff is a part-time kind of a job and they get whoever they can. In better treatment centers, the medical providers are board certified and capable of providing the best care.”

That’s why Berman insists that the medical professionals he works with at Soba College Recovery be well-trained and accredited, even if those people cost more to employ.

“You could rely on less well trained people, but this is definitely not the way to go,” he says.

Getting board certified in addition treatment shows that a provider has expertise in addiction, Berman says. That starts with having a thorough understanding of addiction as a biological illness in order to take a scientific approach to treatment.

“We’re not just talking about a ‘black box’ any more,” he says. “We know much about this disease down to the cellular level at this point. We know the anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.”

Addiction specialists also have a thorough understanding of different treatment modalities and how they should be applied. Finally, they understand the complex intersection between addiction and co-occurring disorders, whether those are physical or psychological.

“People who are certified have that depth of knowledge,” Berman says.

This enables the specialist in either addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry to deliver top-notch care to even the most complex patients, increasing the chances for long-term sobriety.

“The whole goal of addiction medicine and psychiatry is to be able to treat the person holistically,” Berman says. “We don’t just treat the addiction, but all the co-morbidities. Otherwise, in the end, you don’t have someone who can stay clean and sober.”

He says that increased recognition of addiction treatment as its own medical specialty is just one step in treating addiction like any other chronic, progressive and potentially fatal disease.

“We need to treat the whole person,” Berman says. “Addiction should be characterized as any other chronic illness. We can’t cure it, but we can put people into long term remission and people can have good lives.”

Soba College Recovery is an addiction treatment center for young adults in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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