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Help for a Patient

Help for a Patient

Each year thousands of people struggling with addiction slip through the cracks, unable to gain access to the support and treatment that they desperately require. [1]

As a busy medical professional, you may not have the time or experience required to thoroughly assess each patient that may be displaying signs of an addiction. Here at OK Rehab, we have the resources to connect your patient with rehabilitation centres and treatment programmes across the UK, ensuring that they receive the support and medical attention that they require.

If you have concerns about a patient and believe that they may be struggling with a substance or behavioural addiction, this article will help you to take action in a responsible and professional manner.

What are the signs and symptoms of addiction in a patient?

Although you may see your patient on an infrequent basis, knowing which signs of addiction to look out for can allow you to spot a problem before it becomes unmanageable.

It is recommended that you pay close attention to a patient when they discuss their home and work life, as they may unknowingly provide you with information that can lead you to suspect an addiction. Their behaviour regarding appointment timekeeping as well as in-person and phone appointments can also provide clues about their life and general well-being.

Common signs and symptoms of addiction in patients can include:

  • Visiting a number of doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Frequently losing or misplacing their prescriptions and requesting new ones
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Appearing intoxicated or under the influence during appointments
  • Regularly missing appointments or turning up late
  • Requesting higher dosages of medication
  • Concerned family and friends requesting advice or a referral
  • Poor hygiene and lack of grooming
  • Displaying visible abscesses, scabs or track marks
  • Frequently contracting infections
  • Discussing work issues, relationship issues and legal issues
  • Regular mood swings and unpredictable behaviour [2]

How to refer a patient with an addiction

It has never been easier to refer a patient with a suspected substance or behavioural addiction and the process can be completed in four simple steps, starting with calling our free helpline for advice and guidance.

1. Get in touch

Call our team at OK Rehab to discuss potentially referring your patient to a rehabilitation centre or treatment programme. We will be able to advise you on your options and discuss the details of your patient’s case. All information will be kept strictly confidential.

2. Provide relevant information about the patient’s addiction

We will need to know as many details as possible regarding your patient’s addiction, so be prepared to discuss the substance that they may be addicted to as well as any behaviours that indicate a dependency. It can also be helpful to know whether the patient has requested a referral or whether you are proactively seeking one on their behalf.

3. Provide a detailed medical history

We may need to view your patient’s medical records in order to assess their needs and potential treatment options, as a number of factors can influence this decision. You will need to inform us of any co-occurring mental health disorders or addictions as well as their general health and any prior illnesses or issues.

4. Speak with a psychiatrist

Once we have gathered all the relevant information, we will be able to pass your patient’s details on to a relevant rehabilitation centre or treatment programme. You may then be contacted by a psychiatrist in order to further discuss your patient’s cases and provide any further information.

When should I refer a patient with an addiction?

It can be difficult to know whether a patient is suffering from an addiction and requires support from a rehabilitation centre or treatment programme, and you may be unsure as to whether you should take the extra step to refer them.

We can assist in organising a professional assessment and diagnosis for any patient that you believe may require extra support and treatment for addiction. Our team are able to assist you in referring a patient and have connections to a large network of treatment providers, so we will be able to find support in your local area.

Common signs that you should refer a patient for addiction treatment include:

1. The patient has proactively requested a referral

Many people will recognise that they have a problem and will seek help, requesting a referral to a rehabilitation centre or treatment programme. They may also be encouraged to do so by concerned family and friends. In these cases, it is important to listen to their concerns and take the appropriate action in order to safeguard their physical and mental health.

2. The patient has become dependent on prescribed medication

A number of common medications prescribed to patients have the potential to be addictive, but this can often be overlooked due to the benefits of these drugs. In some cases, however, the negative aspects of these medications can begin to outweigh the benefits as an addition can quickly have a severely detrimental effect on all aspects of the patient’s life. [3]

3. The patient continues to experience negative consequences relating to their substance use

By listening to a patient discuss their home and work life, you will be able to gain an insight into their behaviours and general well-being. If they mention troubles at work due to frequent hangovers or legal issues resulting from driving under the influence, this can be an indication that they are struggling with a substance use disorder.

4. The patient has attempted to stop using substances but has been unable to

Your patient may have confided to you that they are having trouble reducing or completely stopping a certain behaviour or their intake of a specific substance. This is a clear sign that they need help, and a referral to a rehabilitation centre or treatment programme can ensure they receive the support that they need.

5. The patient is displaying a number of issues that indicate an addiction

You may have noticed that a patient frequently presents with issues that are often related to substance abuse. These may include liver problems, broken bones, hepatitis and depression. In some cases, these can be coincidental, but in others, it can indicate an ongoing substance abuse problem.

6. The patient has been forging or obtaining multiple prescriptions

If your patient is intent on obtaining higher doses of their usual medication or has been found to be obtaining multiple prescriptions from different doctors, this can be an indication that they may have a dependence on that particular medication.

What are the benefits of addiction treatment?

Some patients may be reluctant to seek treatment for their addiction or may refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem. Knowing how to speak to these patients and frame addiction treatment as a positive step can help them make an informed and sensible decision about their health and their future.

Common benefits of addiction treatment include:

A supportive, non-judgemental environment

Isolation and loneliness are two of the hallmarks of addiction, and it can be difficult to build a strong support network when going through addiction and recovery.

Being in a rehabilitation treatment centre gives patients the opportunity to connect with other people who share similar experiences through group therapy sessions and support groups. Being able to discuss the emotions and struggle around addiction with people who understand exactly how it feels can relieve many feelings of shame and guilt and help patients to see that they are not alone.

A large range of treatment options

Psychological treatment is crucial for long-term, effective recovery from a substance or behavioural addiction and there are a number of evidence-based treatment options available within many rehabilitation centres, some of which are more difficult to obtain elsewhere.

Common treatment options for addiction include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapies including reflexology, acupuncture and art therapy

Structure and routine

Many people dealing with addiction becoming accustomed to living chaotic and self-destructive lifestyles with little structure.

A rehabilitation centre provides a stable routine filled with productive and healthy activities including regular therapy sessions, mindfulness and exercise. While many aspects of treatment can be difficult, staying busy and enjoying structured days can provide comfort and build a foundation for a more stable and fulfilling lifestyle.

Continued support after treatment ends

Once a patient completes treatment and begins to reintegrate back into their life, they are at higher risk of relapse due to a lack of monitoring and potential temptations. Most rehabilitation centres offer a personalised aftercare plan designed to help the patient build a strong support network and cope with triggers in a healthy manner.

This may include ongoing counselling, an initial stay in a sober living ‘halfway house’ and regular attendance at local support groups including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

Will I receive updates on my patient’s progress?

Once you have referred your patient to a rehabilitation clinic for addiction, you can request direct updates from the clinic regarding their progress. These may include your patient’s official diagnosis, notes from their initial assessment and any other information that the clinic makes available to you.

Your patient may wish for you to be involved in their ongoing treatment plan once they complete the programme, so you will receive a full discharge report when they leave the centre and will also be able to access information from their psychiatrist for a more in-depth report.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066414/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/

[3] https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/rise-prescription-drug-misuse-abuse-impacting-teens

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