Dr. Omar Manejwala is passionate about bringing the science of addiction to light. Better understanding of addiction and self-destructive behavior can help everyone involved in this devastating disease—from addicts and family members to doctors and treatment centers. Whether he is involved in treating one addict or speaking to millions via national media outlets, Dr. Omar is quick to connect the dots between brain science and behavior. He believes that by properly treating, and even preventing addiction, we can save lives—not just the lives of addicts, but in many ways also the lives of their families, friends, and loved ones.
As one of the nation’s leading experts on addiction medicine, substance abuse and mental illness, Dr. Omar offers insight and analysis on news developments related to addiction and mental health. He has appeared on national and international television networks, and has been featured via radio and print media. He speaks to audiences about how they can leverage insights from brain and behavior science to change our habits and our lives. Through his speaking, he is able to chip away at the stigma behind addiction and mental health, which often stops people from pursuing wellness. In his latest book, William Cope Moyers says, “Dr. Manejwala knows addiction medicine inside and out.” And Drew Pinsky, M.D. (Dr. Drew) says, “Whether it’s a minor sugar craving or a serious threat to relapsing with drugs and alcohol, Dr. Manejwala explores the root causes of cravings and ways to combat them.”
Dr. Omar didn’t set out to become a substance abuse counselor or expert on addiction, but after losing one of his best friends to addiction in 2004, he chose to dedicate his personal and professional life to making a difference in the lives of people touched by addiction. His personal connection gives him a unique compassionate edge as he works with addicts. In his practice, he found he could often help patients who had already been written off by other doctors. In many ways, he learned as much about how to treat addiction from his patients and their loved ones as he did from the science.
Dr. Omar has spent his career studying and innovating in the fields of psychiatry and addiction. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and was the Executive Chief Resident in Psychiatry at Duke. He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a diplomat of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He served as the Medical Director for Hazelden Foundation, one of the nations oldest and largest addiction centers. While there, he developed and launched a treatment program for healthcare professionals, treating over 350 clients in just 18 months. He was also able to drive large improvements in benchmarked patient satisfaction metrics. Previous to that he served as the Associate Medical Director of the William J Farley Center, where he focused on the treatment of addicted professionals with social responsibility such as doctors, lawyers, and pilots, and as a psychiatrist at Carolinas Healthcare, where he built his practice and became the defacto addiction expert. In December 2011, he became the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Catasys, where he designs innovative approaches that improve addiction care and treatment outcomes. He’s passionate about reducing costs by improving health, rather than sacrificing health to reduce costs.
Dr. Omar is also the author of Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, which explains the universal phenomenon of addiction in accessible terms, so that readers can understand the science of addiction without first earning a medical degree. Readers gain a clear understanding about the cause of cravings and what to do about them, based on the science of addiction and behavior. Everyone craves, whether carbs or cocaine, and there is always another fad diet or fly-by-night solution that proposed to cure that. But until we understand the science of cravings themselves, we cannot conquer our addictions.
When he’s not in the trenches of addiction, Dr. Omar lives a full life. He is a student of the history of oppression and is a voracious reader of books on the subject. He’s been to Burma and recently heard Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi speak on her long term imprisonment. He enjoys travel and is always on the lookout for new experiences. He has hiked across Tasmania and climbed Kilimanjaro. He once visited the wettest place on earth—Cherrapunji, India—but somehow it didn’t rain the whole time. And once on a remote beach in Burma where there was no electricity, he heard a loud engine at 3am, which startled him until he realized it was a generator powering a karaoke machine—within minutes, several rather large Burmese older men were singing Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” in Burmese.