American Society of Addiciton Medicine

ASAM & Addiction Medicine Origins — 1950s

Beginning with Fox and Mann and the NCEA and NYCMSA, the chapter explores early treatment and education. At the time, almost no formal training existed around what was then referred to as alcoholism (as noted above, a term that was solidified in the public consciousness with the creation of the AAlxxiii) and drug abuse or their treatment. Most learning was by either professional word of mouth (including discussions between physicians non-physicians), and patient interactions. At the time, treatment typically took the form of inpatient treatment (though it was considered non-professional conduct for physicians to admit alcoholics to a general hospital) or AA.

Members of NCEA and NYCMSA stepped into this grey area and worked to transform the scope and scale of organizations, treatment, and education centered on addiction. These early efforts reflect an ardent desire among early addiction medicine professionals to expand medical treatment of alcoholism on all fronts and to help educate and foster compassion in physicians working with patients afflicted with the disease.

Although they had not yet conceptualized addiction medicine as a specialty of medicine, these clinicians pushed the boundaries of the field and grew the inpatient facilities and outpatient treatment models on which ASAM was ultimately founded. Among the inpatient facilities developed during the early years were the US Public Health Service’s Narcotic Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky; the Pioneer House and Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota, which fostered the so-called Minnesota Model; the Central Islip Psychiatric Center on Long Island, New York; and Eagleville Hospital and Rehabilitation Center outside Philadelphia. Education can be said to have been the centerpiece:  NYCMSA did not date its founding to its first gathering, or the adopting of its first constitution and bylaws, but dated it as 1954, the year of its first educational conference held at the New York Academy of Medicine.