Guide to Requesting Medical Treatment for Addiction

For the medical condition of addiction, medical treatment is the first order of care. Following is a brief guide, informed by research on what helps people manage the symptoms of addiction, for requesting care from a medical professional.

This guide anticipates a 10-minute appointment with a primary care physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant. Given the likelihood of a short appointment, directness and brevity are essential. People with substance use disorders are encouraged to not use the appointment to explain their situations, but to ask directly for the medical help they specifically need.

“A substance use disorder is a medical illness characterized by clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use.”
– Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health, November, 2016, Page 4-1

. . . . .

Greetings, Medical Care Provider.

I have symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, substance use disorder.

This is an outline of the treatment plan I am following.

In addition, I may be following this treatment plan for alcohol use disorder.

I ask:

  1. to be assessed for suitability for medications for my individual case of substance use disorder, and
  2. for help with feeling as physically and mentally stable as possible.

I would like to request:

_____ Physical exam

_____ Diagnostic lab work

_____ Other: ____________________

From the list below, I have placed checks by the subjects for which I request help. I have provided a brief description of my concerns.

Diagnosis and treatment, including assessment for medications for:

_____ Substance use disorder*

Primary substance(s) of concern:
Secondary substance(s) of concern:

_____ Physical illnesses:

_____ Physical pain:

_____ Sleep disturbances:

_____ Nutrition, diet, weight:

_____ Co-occurring mental illnesses, including trauma symptoms:

_____ Assessment for neuroatypicality: atypical sensory sensitivity or under-sensitivity; attention challenges; autism spectrum:

_____ Appointments and referrals for follow-up care and additional treatment

Thank you for your help.

Name: ___________________________
Date of birth: ___________________________
Date: ___________________________
Phone: ___________________________

*If you would like a history, I have a copy of a timeline listing: 1) first use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and/or other substances; 2) substance use history: substances used, when, how much, and for how long; 3) any traumas: deaths in the family, losses, moves, neglect, abuse, witnessing or experiencing an occurrence as memorably shocking or alarming, witnessing emotional, physical, or sexual violence, community violence or natural disaster; 4) onset of any significant physical illnesses or occurrence of any physical injuries; 5) onset of any mental illnesses; 6) substance use and mental health treatment received.

. . . . .

Notes for readers:

  • Prior to the appointment, make a personal timeline that includes the information listed by the asterisk (*) above.
  • Take a copy of the timeline, not the original, to the appointment.
  • Some medical professionals are unfamiliar with medications for substance use disorder. You can find more information about medical treatment for substance use disorder in the Surgeon General’s Report, Chapter 4, and for alcohol use disorder here.
  • Whether or not to present articles about addiction will require a judgment call on your part. Some medical professionals might feel insulted by the articles, and some might feel appreciative. Since medical care for addiction is hard to come by, this creates a real conundrum.

. . . . .

This post is part of a series on evidence-informed, self-care for addiction. Self-care is NOT an evidence-based treatment for the medical condition of addiction. With evidence-based treatment scarce or denied, however, people with addiction must take treatment matters into their own hands.

The table of contents is here and posts are published in the category entitled Guide.

The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my employers, co-workers, clients, family members or friends. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.

How to Help Yourself Not Use or Drink: A Kind, Evidence-Informed Guide
Adjusting My Inner Volume Helps Me Not Use or Drink

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