American Society of Addiciton Medicine


By this time, a wide variety of medical professionals were working directly in the field of addiction medicine or incorporating its tenets into their practices. Yet, as California Society leader Jess Bromley, MD, asked, “the specialists are here, but is the specialty here?". This question led to what would become two 1983 conferences of people with a stake in the future of addiction medicine: Kroc I (February) and Kroc II (October). The Kroc conferences unfolded in five phases: initial planning, Kroc I, intersession planning, Kroc II, and post-Kroc committees. Conference attendees debated whether a new national organization was necessary, how a new organization might relate to existing organizations, and even what that organization should be named. They also contested whether addiction medicine should be a medical specialty. Participants discussed which physicians belonged in an addiction medicine organization and whether nonphysicians would be welcome within its ranks.lxxv At their core, the Kroc Ranch Unity Meetings centered on questions of legitimacy, credibility, and boundaries. The boundaries participants drew and the credibility they sought set the foundation for a “big tent” organization—one even bigger than AMSA—for addiction medicine.

AMSA emerged from the Kroc Ranch Unity Meetings with newly articulated objectives, an awareness of the obstacles facing the organization, and a nominal position as the national umbrella organization for addiction medicine. One of the largest changes during this period would be the organization’s name, which changed twice in four years. In an effort to recognize and embrace a wider group of medical professionals, AMSA changed its name to the American Medical Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies (AMSAODD) in the wake of the 1983 Kroc Ranch Unity Meetings. In 1989, AMSAODD renamed itself again to become the current American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). 

In a condensed span of time between 1985–1989, AMSAODD’s Board of Directors assiduously pursued new objectives and saw growth (and its corollary, growing pains) in not only the size of the organization but also its recognition among more mainstream American medical specialties.  AMSAODD strengthened its partnerships with multiple federal agencies, cut ties with some organizations, and strengthened bonds with other entities and individuals concerned about improving and expanding addiction care. Furthermore, the organization assumed the tasks of credentialing and certification that the California Society had originated and it launched new publications with national audiences. Successes also bred challenges for the fledgling ASAM. More members and new responsibilities necessitated organizational changes, such as the hiring of executive staff. The national headquarters moved from New York City to Washington, DC. Tensions between the newly partnered organizations flared at times as they struggled to define their own roles and expectations in the unified national specialty society.

An increasing number of nonphysicians who wished to join raised questions about members’ requisite qualifications. During this period, AMSAODD and then ASAM committees debated both the credentials of clinicians and the definition of addiction itself.


Note: There is a shifting of terminology to reflect the current state, non-stigmatizing terms of alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder, even though the terms alcoholism and other drug dependency remained in the Society’s title until 1989.