To treat substance abuse disorders (addictions) successfully, health providers must “first learn about all aspects of a patient’s life, including medical and mental health, and then help the patient create a comprehensive recovery program.”
That is the approach Shalu Gugnani, M.D., and her team are taking at the new NCH Addiction Medicine Clinic on Northwest Community Healthcare’s (NCH) Arlington Heights campus at 880 W. Central Road, Suite 7100.
Dr. Gugnani is board-certified in family medicine and one of only a small group of physicians in the Chicago area trained and board-certified in addiction medicine.
The clinic, which opened in May, offers ongoing outpatient treatment options for substance use disorders and expands the scope of NCH’s Behavioral Health program. That program includes a residential treatment center that provides focused care to people in need of the highest level of health services for substance abuse disorders.
“Addictive disorders are diseases of the brain, and treatment involves more than medication and ongoing therapy. Our patients learn life-management skills -- how to cope emotionally with anxiety and stress in their lives. They are encouraged to reach out and participate in support groups and other activities that increase their self-awareness and enhance their ability to function,” Dr. Gugnani says.
“Treatment varies, depending on the type of substance involved in a patient’s addiction. We have a wide array of approaches and medications,” she emphasizes.
In addition to traditional treatments, holistic programs like yoga, meditation, and exercise, which can increase endorphin levels in the brain and give patients a natural “high” and greater sense of well-being, are often recommended, Dr. Gugnani says.
She adds that “we are not just treating the patients here. We realize that, in providing care, we are impacting everyone around them – their families, their friends, their co-workers.”
Dr. Gugnani is currently a member of a task force seeking to increase the number of care providers in Cook County who are trained in providing health services to patients with addictions.
One of the barriers to treatment is that substance abuse is a disease of isolation; it likes to hide. “People may think they do not have a problem, because they are functioning at a higher level. We don’t need to wait for a patient to experience severe consequences from their use before offering treatment. Early intervention is often the key,” Dr. Gugnani says.
People interested in the services of the addiction medicine program at NCH can call 847-HEALING.