Addiction Psychiatry

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In the scientific field of addiction psychiatry, people who are chemical drug addicts are treated with both psychotherapy and medication. Since addiction psychiatrists can prescribe medication, individuals have to complete medical school, finish residency training, and be trained in psychological principles before embarking on a career in the field.

The principal objective of addiction psychiatry is to address the psychiatric causes of a person's specific addiction. People can become addicted to many different substances. Addiction psychiatrists treat patients who have drug, alcohol, or nicotine addictions. (1)

Dr Nicky Kalk, Addictions Psychiatry

What is Addiction Psychiatry?

An addiction psychiatrist specializes in the identification and management of mental health issues related to substance usage as well as those problems themselves. Addiction psychiatrists generally treat patients of all ages with addictions to alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medications who also suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. A patient's medical history, past substance use, and current mental health are all routinely assessed by them. They also make diagnoses for psychiatric conditions such as 

  • depression, 
  • dementia, 
  • bipolar disorder, 
  • anxiety, 
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (if any), 
  • sleep disorders, 
  • eating disorders, 
  • and substance misuse. 

They also evaluate an individual's ability to carry out activities of daily living like driving, eating, and getting dressed. (2)


Numerous diagnostic and screening procedures can be ordered or carried out by an addiction psychiatrist in order to identify both acute and chronic mental health conditions in individuals with substance abuse problems. These tests include:

  • Imaging tests 

 Psychiatrists use imaging tests to check for abnormalities in the brain. These tests may include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used.

  • IQ and related tests

IQ tests and other associated evaluations check the patient's cognitive capability.

  • Laboratory tests 

Psychiatrists may order laboratory tests such as complete blood counts (CBC), urine tests, blood glucose (sugar) tests, liver function tests, kidney function tests, and drug testing.

  • Testing for specific psychiatric disorders

These tests can identify psychiatric disorders such as mood, anxiety, psychotic, and personality disorders.

Addiction psychiatrists employ a range of procedures and treatments to address substance use disorders as well as the mental health issues that frequently occur with them. At an inpatient rehabilitation facility, in their own practice, or at a clinic, addiction psychiatrists can support recovery on an outpatient basis. Common procedures and treatments utilized by addiction psychiatrists include:

  • Psychotherapy treatments

It comprises group therapy, marriage and family counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and psychoanalysis. Helping individuals lead drug-free and sober life is the aim of addiction therapy and substance abuse treatment.

  • Detoxification treatment

It entails supportive care for physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Medications

It comprises antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, sedative-hypnotics, and medications for alcoholism and drug misuse.

  • Involuntary commitment and treatment

Involuntary commitment and treatments are used for severe, unmanageable situations of drug misuse and mental disease. (3)


All ages of individuals with substance use disorders ought to consider consulting an addiction psychiatrist. Those who have a history of substance misuse and a mental disease such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder ought to consider consulting an addiction psychiatrist. Most frequently, a patient will be referred to an addiction psychiatrist by a general psychiatrist, primary care physician, addiction therapist, or psychologist.  Additionally, patients who voluntarily or involuntarily enter inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment facilities will almost certainly receive care from an addiction-focused psychiatrist.

Abuse of substances itself has an impact on mental and physical health. The significant and enduring mental and physical illnesses, disorders, and ailments brought on by excessive and protracted drug exposure can be avoided by seeking the assistance of an addiction psychiatrist. Patients with the following conditions should seek immediate treatment.

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dementia
  • Eating disorders
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Substance addictions (4)

Risk and Side Effects

Treatments in addiction psychiatry can be highly beneficial for people with drug use disorders or other addictive behaviors. However, these treatments are also associated with significant risks and side effects. Among the risks associated with addiction psychiatric treatments are:

  • dependence on medication
  • drowsiness, 
  • gastrointestinal issues, 
  • mood changes, 
  • cognitive impairment, 
  • physical health complications,
  • withdrawal.

Post-Procedure and Follow-up

Tracking and monitoring the treatment is highly important as it involves constant monitoring, support, and adjustment of the treatment plan to ensure its effectiveness and address any issues that arise. The specific processes may vary depending on the individual's needs and the treatment approach being utilized. Following the initial assessment and initiation of treatment, individuals typically have scheduled follow-up appointments with their psychiatrist or addiction specialist. The frequency of these appointments may vary depending on the treatment phase and individual progress. These appointments provide an opportunity to discuss treatment progress, address concerns, and make any necessary adjustments.


Many addiction psychiatry treatments include therapy as a core component. They often involve regular therapy sessions with a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional. These sessions focus on addressing underlying issues, developing coping skills, and providing ongoing support. 

Patients may involve participation in support groups or peer support programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups provide a supportive community, encouragement, and accountability in maintaining sobriety.

Treatments may also involve providing educational materials, resources, and referrals to support services that can aid in the recovery process. This can include information on self-help resources, community programs, or additional therapy options.


For individuals with substance use disorders or any other sort of addiction, seeking the help of an addiction psychiatrist can be useful in deciding the best course of action for moving forward on the road to recovery.

Since they have specific experience in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions linked to drug or drinking, they may provide patients with tailored treatment plans that focus on helping patients manage their symptoms while preventing relapse into drug or alcohol use.

Participating in the process of follow-up care is essential, as is being open and honest with the healthcare professional. Sharing any issues, difficulties, or changes in symptoms enables prompt treatment plan modifications and increases the likelihood of a full recovery.

Related Procedures

  • 1- What Is Addiction Psychiatry? (

    2,3,4- Healthgrades. Addiction Psychiatrist: Your Expert in Substance Abuse Treatment. (