Dr. Indra Cidambi: Medical Director, Recovery CNT

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Indra Cidambi, M.D., completed her residency in Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY and her Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at NYU/Bellevue Hospital, New York, NY. Previous to founding the Center for Network Therapy, she was the Director of Chemical dependency at Summit Oaks Hospital (Summit, NJ) and an Attending Physician at Carrier Clinic (Belle Mead, NJ). She has been practicing Addiction Medicine since 2005. She speaks five languages, including Russian.

What makes you a successful addiction doctor?

I think the ability to show genuine empathy, and provide the patient with therapeutic support in addition to medication management makes a big difference. In spite of me not being in recovery, I have always been open to learning and understanding the painful process of recovery. I have put in time to learn a lot about using substances and the behavioral changes it brings from treating my patients. I think the patient is able to more easily connect with me because I am not judgmental. Also, I am always there for the patient when they need me the most - while they are struggling to cope while in recovery. I make every effort to bring the family into treatment and educate them that addiction is a chronic disease and that recovery is a process.

What makes you the best version of yourself?

The challenge of delivering the best possible care to each and every patient at my facility, Center for Network Therapy, brings out the best in me. I am not the only one providing care. Nurses and therapists also have a role. I have to be the role model for my staff and teach and encourage them to really "serve" the patient, not just do their job. I work hard to ensure that each of my staff is being non-judgmental and meeting the patient where they are (level of motivation to get clean and live sober), and helping them become stronger and get a grip on sobriety.

Please describe your career goals and ambitions. What’s your biggest career success story?

Nearly five years back, I introduced the Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification level of care in New Jersey, because I felt that better outcomes could be achieved by integrating the home environment into treatment and involving loved ones. Obviously, this cannot happen in an inpatient setting. Now, I am happy to report, that me and my team have delivered much better outcomes relative to inpatient detoxification. A survey we did in 2016 revealed that over 65% of the patients that went through our Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification program were sober over 90 days. I am very happy where I am right now, as the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM, previously known as ASAM) is recognizing my groundbreaking work in addiction treatment by awarding me a plaque for introducing the Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification model and proving it to be safe and  effective. Of course, I want to continue to provide the best treatment possible until this drug epidemic is eradicated.

Can you tell us of about the most challenging times in your career?

While I was able to prove that the Ambulatory Detoxification modality of care delivered better outcomes, it was not easy. My facility was the first to offer detoxification from alcohol, benzodiazepines and opiates in an outpatient setting and when I first introduced the model in early 2013, the treatment community was highly resistant. Detoxification from alcohol and benzodiazepines was considered "too risky" to be attempted in an outpatient setting due to the risk of seizures and stroke. So, essentially the treatment community shunned my outpatient model and referred patients only to the incumbent inpatient model. However, patient acceptance of the model was high as they really experienced an dramatic improvement in their lives due to the integration of the home environment into treatment. That kept me going. Now, I am happy to report that many other addiction treatment facilities are following my footsteps and offering outpatient detoxification services.

What’s your personal mantra?

Be there for the patient.

Industry role model?

I was trained in the field of addiction medicine by Dr. Marc Galanter at New York University, and I consider him my mentor and guru. He is a pioneer in addiction treatment and introduced the Network Therapy approach, which involves the patient's network (family, friends, or other supporting individuals) into treatment. I have named my facility "Center for Network Therapy" in recognition of his groundbreaking work in addiction treatment.

What are you passionate about?

I wake up every morning with the goal of saving lives from the drug epidemic. I believe it is my calling and, with effective treatment, we should lose no lives to this disease. I also work every day to remove the stigma from this disease, as it keeps people and families from seeking treatment. Addiction is a chronic disease not a moral failure. Medication is more readily available to treat this disease and it should be availed of. There is also stigma in the treatment community against utilizing medication assisted treatment (MAT) to help individuals with substance use disorders. It is a shame that some treatment providers and support groups advocate against the use of MAT, suggesting that it is substitution of one drug for another. I try and work on this stigma also.