What All Psychiatrists Need to Know About Addictions


Because at least 10% of the US population suffers from a substance use disorder in any given year, the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry has expanded its longstanding Board Review Course in Addictions to a more inclusive “Addictions and Their Treatment” course.


Dr Sevarino is the Director and Dr Suzuki, Co-director, for a review course at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) meeting.  Below, highlights from the course titled “Addictions and Their Treatment.”

The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2013 shows the continuing trend that only 7.7% of those meeting criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD) received specialized treatment for their condition.1 Considering that more than 10% of the US population suffers from a SUD in any given year, there is a need to dramatically increase the number of physicians and allied health professionals prepared to offer evidence-based therapies.2

A variety of approaches are needed to achieve this goal. Undergraduate and graduate medical education in SUDs need to be strengthened, so that physicians of all specialties, not just addiction specialists, will be better prepared to help addicted patients. More physicians completing residency training are needed to pursue fellowship training in addictions. Finally, more opportunities are needed to help general psychiatrists seeking to incorporate the state of the art in addiction treatment into their current practices, as research shows that 20% of patients seeking treatment for mood or anxiety disorders also have SUDs.2

Towards this end, in 2012 the AAAP expanded its longstanding Board Review Course in Addictions to a more inclusive “Addictions and Their Treatment” course. As such, the course would be appropriate not only for physicians preparing for board certification or re-certification, but also for those looking for a refresher course that comprehensively covers evidenced-based approaches to the treatment of SUDSs.

General psychiatrists, psychiatry residents, addiction psychiatry fellows, and allied health professionals treating addicted patients would also greatly benefit from this course. Given the high prevalence of co-morbid psychiatric disorders with SUDs, general psychiatrists would benefit from further understanding of the dually-diagnosed, and the recommended approaches of screening, brief intervention and referral for treatment.

The 3-day course has seen ever increasing attendance, reaching 187 registrants in 2013. Part of this may be explained by the advent maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements for physicians, increasing the demand for CME credits.

This year in service of MOC requirements, AAAP members are given the option of obtaining 8 self-assessment credits for course participation, as well as CME credits with up to 20 hours of training. Kevin Sevarino, MD, PhD of Yale University has been Course Director since 2007, and is joined this year by Joji Suzuki, MD of Harvard Medical School as Co-director. This year's course is made up of 20 lectures offered by a strong cast of speakers including many leaders in the field of Addiction Psychiatry, in the following areas:

  • General concepts and epidemiology (Kevin A. Sevarino MD, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine)
  • Neurobiology and genetics (Kevin A. Sevarino, MD, PhD)
  • Treatment of addiction to alcohol (Bryon Adinoff, MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), sedatives/hypnotics (Richard K. Ries, MD, University of Washington), opioids (John J. Renner, MD, Boston University), stimulants (Steven L. Batki, MD, University of California, San Francisco), cannabis (Petros Levounis, MD, Rutgers New Jersey Medicine School), and tobacco (Joji Suzuki, MD, Harvard Medical School)
  • Emerging drugs of abuse (Petros Levounis, MD, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School)
  • Pain and addiction (Joji Suzuki MD, Harvard Medical School)
  • Forensic issues (Laurence M. Westreich, MD, New York University School of Medicine)
  • Screening, brief intervention and prevention (Richard K. Ries, MD, University of Washington)
  • Dual diagnosis, including personality disorders and psychotic disorders (Stephen Ross, MD, New York University School of Medicine)
  • Adolescent and transitional age youth with addiction (Robert P. Milin, MD, University of Ottawa and Francis R. Levin, MD, Columbia University)
  • Non-substance-based addictions (Timothy W. Fong, MD, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital)
  • Psychosocial treatments (Edward V. Nunes, MD, Columbia University)
  • Medical co-morbidities (Steven L. Batki MD, University of California, San Francisco)
  • Special populations (Louis A. Trevisan, MD, Yale University School of Medicine)



Dr Sevarino is Medical Director, Newington Mental Health Firm, Connecticut V.A. Healthcare System, Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr Suzuki is Director, Division of Addiction Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, in Boston.


1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD, 2014.
2. Grant BF, Stinson FS, Dawson DA, et al. Prevalence and co-occurrence of substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004;61:807–816).

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