Understanding addiction

By Jan Jarvis

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Students

 

Mir Ali is quick to acknowledge that asking patients personal questions about their alcohol or drug use can be tough.

But after spending a week at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the third-year student in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine said he feels much better prepared to address addiction issues with his future patients.

“What I learned there was that I have to have the courage to ask questions,” he said. “As a primary care physician, it will be important for me to do whatever I can to keep my patients from falling into the disease of addiction.”

Fifteen UNT Health Science Center students and one faculty member spent a week at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in California, where they attended group therapy sessions, 12-step meetings and lectures. They also spent time with addicts and learned firsthand about the challenges they face.

Nearly one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 is affected by substance abuse. Yet primary care physicians, who see their patients most often and are most likely to spot addiction issues, often hesitate to broach the subject. That’s in part because most American medical schools provide just a few hours of training on addiction.

Through the partnership with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, UNT Health Science Center is helping students understand addiction, how to talk about it and how to treat it.

As part of an immersion experience, Chrystyna Senkel, a UNTHSC instructor and the first physician assistant to attend the program, paired up with a veterinarian who had been an addict more than half of her life.

“I never thought of the potential for addiction in vets, but can entirely see it given that they are both doctor and pharmacist and have ready access to potent narcotics,” she said. “The nature of their work could really trigger an individual emotionally.”

Seeing firsthand how much people suffer with addiction had a profound effect on Sohail Kamrudin, a third-year TCOM student.

“I learned more from spending time with people suffering with addiction than I would ever learn from a PowerPoint presentation,” he said. “Seeing the gravity of this disease and the stigma around it was a formative experience for me.”

The program quickly separated stereotype from reality, Senkel said.

“Addiction looks like everyone and spares no one: corporate execs, longshore fishermen, prostitutes, housewives, physicians, dentists, etc,” she said.

Primary care providers are in a unique position to address addiction issues among patients, Ali said. But all too often, physicians are not educated about what to watch for. The program has left him feeling well-equipped to address addiction when he begins practicing.

“Addiction is a disease like any other,” he said. “It’s not the patient’s fault.”

Recent News

Screenshot 2024 06 20 At 3.45.01 pm
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

From sacrifice to success: a journey through physical therapy school

Ancelmo Mojarro came to Fort Worth to study. The Tyler native knew he wanted to be a physical therapist early on his undergraduate days. He embarked on his path to physical therapy a decade ago, inspired by a friend's suggestion amidst his quest to find his calling in the medical field. “I starte...
Garciarosanski
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

HSC pro bono physical therapy program offers hope

For 70-year-old Beverly Rozanski, the journey to improved health has been long and challenging. Raised in Michigan, Rozanski spent her childhood and early adult years struggling with physical challenges that made even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. However, her discovery of a pro bono p...
Mills John
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

Team of HSC experts develops national position statement for NCCHC on care for aging patients in correctional facilities

Addressing an overlooked and sometimes neglected patient population, a group of experts from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth partnered with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to write a “Care for Aging Patients in the Correctional Setting” posit...
Jennifer Fix 2 Purple
  • Education
|Jun 18, 2024

Pharmacy technician shortage driving force behind new, online prep course

A self-paced, online Pharmacy Technician Preparation Course is now being offered through The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as a way to help combat the shortage of pharmacy technicians at hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies. Recognized by the Pharmacy Tech...