How to Become an Addiction Psychiatrist

The Basics

When someone uses an ineffective coping mechanism to deal with life’s stresses, addiction can occur. As an addiction psychiatrist, you may be able to provide assistance to clients who are battling addiction to a variety of items, such as drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, and even sex.

The field of addiction psychiatry is relatively new within the psychiatry family, officially added as a specialty in 1991. As an addiction psychiatrist, you will provide clients with treatment interventions and support them to recover from their addictions. Additionally, you will be able to assist with behavior modification to help clients deal with addiction and help them to work on developing new and healthier coping behaviors.

As a psychiatrist, you will be both a mental health professional and a licensed medical doctor with the ability to prescribe medications as needed. With the great responsibility comes an above-average salary and the ability to know that you have made a difference in the life of your clients.

Where Does an Addiction Psychiatrist Work?

As an addiction psychiatrist, you will be able to work in a variety of settings. The majority of professionals work in outpatient and residential mental health and substance abuse facilities. However, the selection of locations is vast, including prisons, probation agencies, detox centers, and employee assistance programs.

Another option is private practice, where psychiatrists work in individual settings. Most professionals work full-time, with some nights and weekends in certain settings. The nature of the job can often be stressful, making self-care essential for an addiction psychiatrist.

What are the Requirements to Become an Addiction Psychiatrist?


Becoming an addiction psychiatrist takes many years of school. First you will need to attend and complete college, then medical school. Upon successful graduation from an accredited program, you will need to complete a residency in psychiatry.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), residents must complete 48 months (4 years) of psychiatric specific residency. After completing a residency in general psychiatry, you will need to complete one year of ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) accredited addiction psychiatry specific fellowship training.


New graduates must pass oral and written examinations for obtaining state medical license required to practice medicine, which can vary depending on the state in which you want to practice. It is wise to examine the requirements for your individual state while pursuing your education to make sure the classes and steps taken will help to support your career goals.


Certification in addiction psychiatry can be obtained through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), which is a branch of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Only those who are board certified in general psychiatry will be considered for the sub-specialty certification in addiction psychiatry, upon meeting the educational, training, and other requirements.

Recommended External Resource: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology – Become Certified

Skills and Qualities

The skills that are valuable for those wishing to pursue addiction psychiatry includes both excellent written and verbal communication aptitude, as you will need to interact with a variety of individuals, from the clients themselves, to the family members and other medical professionals on the treatment team.

Additionally, leadership and problem solving are essential in filling the role, as you will often be called upon to make big decisions that have the possibility of impacting another’s life. Being entrusted with such a responsibility requires clear thinking and keen analytical skills.

What is the Salary for an Addiction Psychiatrist?

The salary for an addiction psychiatrist varies with location, type of facility, and geographic location. However, on average, psychiatrists earn $220,430 per year, as of May 2021.

Some of the highest paying industries for psychiatrists include public administration, health care and social assistance, and educational services.

What is the Job Outlook for Addiction Psychiatrists?

As of May 2021, there are currently 25,520 psychiatrists working in the US. This number is projected to increase by 12% in coming years.

The states with the highest rate of employment in the field are California, New York, and Texas, with a combined total accounting for nearly half of all of the psychiatric jobs in the nation. The states with the least number of filled psychiatrists, including those specializing in addictions consist of Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska, which account for roughly 100 total positions.

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