Substance abuse and addiction is a problem that is ravaging communities across the nation. It has become a problem that is no longer considered an urban issue because it has become so widespread. Addiction is now rapidly growing in suburbia as young adults are increasingly becoming more comfortable using and abusing drugs. This rise in young adult drug use is directly related to the rise in popularity of prescription drugs. Prescription drugs are everywhere. Watching an hour of television (which is an incredibly modest estimation) would yield at least 8 different prescription drug ads; not surprising is that the United States is one of a handful of nations that allows drug commercials. To add to this major issue is the fact that services for substance abuse and addiction are incredibly limited. The country as a whole is not equipped to handle the outbreak of substance abuse. There are more treatment centers and programs being developed, but these are still not enough.

Telemedicine is a newer program that is being utilized by physicians to treat a number of different medical issues and now being used to treat substance abuse and addiction. There are a great number of states that currently allow for telemedicine practice. It has shown to be a great way for patients to stay in contact with their physicians in an efficient manner on non-life threatening issues. With the lack of services for substance abuse and addiction and the increase in addiction, should telemedicine be the future of drug treatment? Most professionals would not agree to use this style of program.

Telemedicine in Practice

Telemedicine is a practice in which doctors communicate with patients via the internet. Using programs like live chat or Skype allows physicians to communicate with patients in a private manner, but informally out of the office. Professionals state that four out of five medical visits could be managed through this telemedicine practice. This method of conducting doctor’s visits is very effective. Imagine the efficiency and convenience of simply opening up your computer to speak with your physician about a cold, pink eye, urinary tract infection or other common illness instead of making an appointment, getting out of school or work, picking up your child and going to the physician’s office. The practice seems like something that should have been utilized years ago. The question then becomes what is the practical extent of this method? Can it or should it be used to treat addiction?

Telemedicine and Drug Treatment

The beginning stages of drug addiction treatment are often the most difficult to overcome. It takes several months and even years for recovering addicts to feel strong again. The starting point of recovering requires tremendous commitment and strength. The withdrawal symptoms can be painful and severe. As such, most professionals would not recommend using telemedicine as a treatment option in the beginning of treatment. Many addicts need firm, direct guidance from a long-term treatment facility. It could not be practical for most addictions because the recovering addict could easily manipulate the situation. In the latter stages of treatment, however, a recovering addict could benefit from the convenience of telemedicine. It would allow them to speak with professionals and attend group counseling from the comfort of their homes. It would reduce the scheduling and financial burdens they might encounter. In conclusion, should telemedicine be the future of drug treatment: yes and no. It should not be used in the early stages of treatment but should be utilized later. Addiction specialists should give recovering addicts permission to use telemedicine, they should not attempt to self-prescribe this type of treatment.