Quality & Science

What is an Addiction Specialist?


  • 1. What about ABAM Diplomats who are ineligible to take the ABPM exam?

    There are options for ABAM Diplomats who are ineligible to take the ABPM exam to maintain their recognition as addiction medicine physicians.

    ABAM-certified  physicians who are ineligible to sit for the ABPM board exam and who maintain their ABAM transitional maintenance of certification  will receive a Lifetime Certification from ABAM when the ABPM Practice Pathway closes.

    In 2016, ABAM-certified osteopathic addiction medicine physicians with an active AOA certification  and who maintained their ABAM transitional maintenance of certification were offered a one-time opportunity for an American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Addiction Medicine certification.  AOA is currently investigating the restoration of a certification pathway which would provide an opportunity for osteopathic physicians to obtain certification in the subspecialty of Addiction Medicine.

  • 2. Who recognizes addiction medicine as a specialized area of medical practice?

    The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), in 2016, officially recognized Addiction Medicine as a medical subspecialty.

    The American Medical Association (AMA), in 1988, granted the American Society of Addiction Medicine a seat, with a vote, in the AMA House of Delegates (and today ASAM has two seats). In 1990, the AMA recognized addiction medicine as a "self-designated specialty," and has designated a specific code ("ADM') that physicians can select as their specialty, and that will be listed as such in the AMA Physician Masterfile.

    The U.S. Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) signed into law in 2000 (DATA 2000) recognizes certification in addiction medicine as a credential that allows physicians to prescribe "narcotic drugs in Schedule III, IV, or V or combinations of such drugs to patients for maintenance or detoxification treatment." A Final Rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2016 increases the number of patients that certain physicians can treat under DATA 2000. Board-certified addiction medicine physicians qualify by nature of their board certification to treat the maximum number of 275 patients.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)recognize addiction medicine as eligible forreimbursement. Coding of Specialty Codes

    Divisions of addiction services in several state health departments require that medical directors of public treatment programs be ASAM-Certified (the certification process that was the predecessor to ABAM’s and ABPM’s processes of certifying physician specialists in addiction medicine via examination). These states include Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  Other states, such as Wisconsin, recognize ABAM and ASAM certification as a measure of physician knowledge and skills to treat patients with addiction and hold clinical leadership positions in state-certified treatment agencies and programs.

    Many hospitals and insurance companies recognize addiction medicine, ABAM and ABPM certifications.

  • 3. What does FASAM and DFASAM mean?

    When you see the letters “FASAM” or “DFASAM” after your physician’s name, they mean that he or she is a Fellow or Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).  

    These designations mean the physician has been certified by ABAM, ABPM, ABPN, AOA or another organization acceptable to ASAM, and that the physician has been an ASAM member for at least two consecutive years. 

    Distinguished Fellows have the added distinction of being recognized by their peers for excellence and skill in medical practice, teaching, scholarship and professional accomplishments.

    FASAM and DFASAM are marks of distinction. They say that the physician has made special efforts to be a better doctor through advanced training and activities such as public service, professional society engagement, and continuing medical education.  Ultimately, it says that the physician cares about delivering high-quality healthcare.


  • 4. What are other resources about addiction specialists?

  • 5. How to find an addiction specialist?

    To find an ASAM member, search the ASAM Member Directory. Please note this search yields all ASAM members, not just physicians.

    To find an ABAM-certified physician, go to the website of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) and use the Find a Doctor tool.

    To find an ABPM-certified addiction medicine physician, go to the website of  the American Board of Preventive Medicine and use the Physician Lookup.

    To find an ABPN-certified addiction psychiatrist, go to the website of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology  and use the ABPN VerifyCERT tool.

     To find an AAAP member, go to the Patient Referral Program of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP).

    Note that ASAM administered the exam for physicians to be certified in addiction medicine from 1984 - 2008. The American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) started administering the exam in 2010. Please contact ASAM to verify the certification status of a particular ASAM-certified physician.