In response to the opioid crisis that emerged in the early 2000s, ASAM collaborated with professional associations in pain medicine and encouraged their members to join ASAM or at least enroll in ASAM’s continuing medical education (CME) courses around the subject.
The development of buprenorphine as a medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) presented both opportunities and challenges for ASAM. Arguments raged among members (and continue to be a flash point in the addiction medicine field) around whether it is medically or ethically sound to use one addictive substance to prevent the use of another, and if so, whether physicians should be allowed to prescribe a drug like buprenorphine to patients as they would any other medication. In this fray, the Society lobbied on the national and state level on behalf of the greater good of people with addiction (following the adage, “first do no harm”) to increase access to the medication in office-based treatment in hopes of slowing the tragic and unprecedented rise in opioid-related deaths. These advocacy efforts ushered in an era of unprecedented growth in membership, and ASAM gained increased prominence both among other national medical specialty societies and in Washington, DC.
ASAM used the years between 2000 and 2020 to reassess its trajectory and reprioritize its mission. The Society restructured the Board of Directors, periodically updated its strategic plan, and took concrete steps toward actualizing goals that the organization had, in one way or another, been working toward for decades. The period of rapid growth also spurred change in ASAM’s membership. What had begun as a relatively small, physician-only medical society had become a large organization representing members with increasingly varied causes to champion and debates in which to engage.
The Society influenced the content of and lobbied for major health reform at the state and national level and on issues related to equitable treatment access, particularly access to insurance coverage for medications for the treatment of substance use disorders. ASAM developed and has continued to expand a robust suite of educational offerings; has built a publication portfolio that includes renowned textbooks and new offerings reflecting emerging public health trends; has coordinated its public policy statements with expanding advocacy activities; and has taken action to change the direction of its official journal by bringing into existence the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Additionally, ASAM has continued to offer its annual conference and other national education events, has been working to reenergize state chapters and has welcomed hundreds of new addiction care providers into the field, opening its membership to nonphysicians and providing them with a solid understanding of the field that ASAM itself had played a crucial role in defining.