What makes the approach to treating addiction disorders at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) so special is its focus on “learning about various aspects of the patient’s life, medical and mental health, and helping him or her create a comprehensive recovery program,” says Shalu Gugnani, M.D., Medical Director of the newly opened NCH Addiction Medicine Clinic.
“I get to know each of my patients on an individual level. I find out about their family life, careers, their concerns, and the ways in which they cope. My first goal is to develop a solid rapport. I want my patients to know I am willing to help them, whether they are succeeding or struggling,” explains Dr. Gugnani, who 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.
Dr. Gugnani says, “Substance use disorders are diseases of the brain, and treatment involves more than ongoing therapy and medications. Our patients learn how to cope emotionally with anxiety and stress in their lives. They are encouraged to attend support meetings and participate in other activities that increase their self-awareness and enhance their ability to function.”
The Addiction Medicine Clinic, which opened in May on the NCH campus in Arlington Heights, provides ongoing, lower-level outpatient treatment options for substance abuse and represents another important step in the expansion of NCH’s Behavioral Health Program. The program also includes a residential treatment center, which opened in February 2016, for patients in need of the highest level of health services for addiction.
Dr. Gugnani says a more intensive outpatient clinic for patients who do not require hospitalization, but benefit from addiction therapy three to four days a week, could be initiated as early as this fall at NCH. She also looks forward to hiring a psychologist for the Addiction Medicine Clinic.
“We are not just treating the patients here,” she says. “We realize that, in providing care, we are impacting everyone around them – their families, their friends, their coworkers.”
Dr. Gugnani is a member of a task force looking to increase the number of addictive disorder care providers in Cook County. The estimated need is for approximately 1,500 such providers. Currently, the county has only about 200 trained in substance abuse, she says.
Most of the patients being treated in the NCH Addiction Medicine Clinic suffer from alcohol and opioid use disorders. Although, Dr. Gugnani adds, “We are treating cannabis abuse and patients who have experimented with any number of different substances, including cocaine, benzodiazepine and newer synthetic drugs.”
Among the medications used by the clinic to control substance abuse are Suboxone®, a medication that keeps a patient stable and relieves craving by acting as both an opioid and opioid blocker, and a medically injectable form of naltrexone.
“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. Most recently, Dr. Gugnani was part of a University of Wisconsin research team, whose study of naltrexone in the treatment of alcohol addiction was published on June 12 in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
To refer a patient to Dr. Gugnani and the Addiction Medicine Clinic, call 847-618-2700.