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From a Doctor’s Perspective, What Are Barriers to Substance Use Disorder Treatment?

From a Doctor’s Perspective, What Are Barriers to Substance Use Disorder Treatment?

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are of major concern within the United States, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) reporting approximately 21.5 million people aged 12 or older having met the criteria for an SUD in 2014. As addiction continues to be a crisis for many Americans, doctors are now under new pressures to help those recovering (or those in fear of becoming dependent on their prescription medications). As the opioid crisis has indicated, systemic barriers can certainly spark public health concerns if not addressed early on. Doctors are a part of this system – their perspectives are that of importance because they do make an impact on the day-to-day lives of individuals nationwide.

A 2018 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence sought to explore the perspectives of 182 substance use treatment professionals, in light of the deaths and economic burden that have risen with America’s public health crisis. Researchers derived several themes from anonymous survey responses that were distributed. Here is what they found:


  • Additional training, education, and use of evidence-based practices – to move above and beyond traditional licensure to provide more support
  • Expansion of treatment services – perspectives seemed to be geared more towards adding additional services for treatment or a greater degree of integration between primary health care, mental health disorder services, and SUD services
  • Increased resources – fiscal resources such as government funding were seen as a great need to provide better treatment services
  • Stigma reduction – expanded education was listed as a need to correct misbeliefs regarding mental illness and addiction for healthcare professionals in the field
  • Increased collaboration and leadership – participants shared their wishes for reduced “infighting” that seems to occur between medication-assisted treatment and abstinence-based treatment, as well as more communication efforts with outside organizations
  • Reductions in regulations, requirements, and incentives – reduced administrative tasks (paperwork) was a major concern for doctors, as well as the removal of incentive-based motivation
  • Expansion of recovery support services – additional support for families and post-recovery for clients was offered


If you currently work in the healthcare field, do you have anything that you would add to this list or take away? Opening this discussion means that more steps can be taking towards improving the healthcare system, as well as improving individuals’ experiences seeking care.

If you haven’t already, speak with someone from a professional treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing.

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