Another exciting possibility comes from the world of pharmaceuticals. Some medications have modest efficacy for addressing addictive disorders; however, historically these have been poorly utilized. Enhanced understanding of the neurobiology combined with increased insurance reimbursement should prompt research and new drug development. Some promising agents are already in the pipeline. Research into molecular and gene therapy as a way to better individualize care is also underway.
Going forward, I think we will also encounter a different landscape of drugs. Synthetic agents are emerging and increasing in popularity. Alarmingly, public perception of harm is decreasing. When it comes to cannabis use, I see a rise in pathologic use and the ramifications of this will have a drastic impact, particularly on patients with mental health conditions. We will need to undertake better efforts in monitoring, staying updated, and providing public education campaigns.
Dr. Ahmed: What advice do you have for trainees contemplating subspecialty training in addiction psychiatry?
Dr. Stanciu: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of mentorship. The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry has a robust system for connecting mentees with mentors at all stages in their careers. This can be extremely helpful, especially in situations where the residency program does not have addiction-trained faculty or rotations through treatment centers. Joining such an organization also grants you access to resources that can help further your enthusiasm. Those interested should also familiarize themselves with currently available pharmacotherapeutic treatments that have evidence supporting efficacy for various addictive disorders, and begin to incorporate these medications into general mental health practice, along with attempts at motivational interviewing. For example, begin discussing naltrexone with patients who have comorbid alcohol use disorders and are interested in reducing their drinking; and varenicline with patients who smoke and are interested in quitting. The outcomes should automatically elicit an interest in pursuing further training in the field!