About the ASAM Criteria


What is The ASAM Criteria?

The ASAM Criteria is the most widely used and comprehensive set of guidelines for placement, continued stay, transfer, or discharge of patients with addiction and co-occurring conditions. Formerly known as the ASAM patient placement criteria, The ASAM Criteria is the result of a collaboration that began in the 1980s to define one national set of criteria for providing outcome- oriented and results-based care in the treatment of addiction.

Many states across the country are using The ASAM Criteria as the foundation of their efforts to improve the addiction treatment system. Adolescent and adult treatment plans are developed through a multidimensional patient assessment over five broad levels of treatment that are based on the degree of direct medical management provided, the structure, safety and security provided and the intensity of treatment services provided.

ASAM Criteria Six Dimensions

What are the Levels of Care?

The ASAM Criteria’s strength-based multidimensional assessment takes into account a patient's needs, obstacles and liabilities, as well as their strengths, assets, resources and support structure. This information is used to determine the appropriate level of care across a continuum.

High-res continuum of care graphic

Who uses The ASAM Criteria?

The ASAM Criteria is useful to patients, treatment providers, managed care providers, and other stakeholders and professionals.

Patients are encouraged to work with their treatment providers to create an individualized treatment plan based on The ASAM Criteria’s assessment dimensions. The criteria views patients in their entirety, rather than by a single medical or psychological condition. This means it pays attention to the whole patient, including all of his or her life areas, as well as all risks, needs, strengths and goals.

Using The ASAM Criteria, patients can:

  • Become active participants in their own care
  • Learn about, anticipate and understand treatment options and protocols
  • Use The ASAM Criteria’s six dimensions, or life areas, to better understand how risks
    and strengths, skills and resources in one life area can affect another


For treatment providers, The ASAM Criteria provides a holistic approach for determining individualized and outcome-driven treatment plans for patients. Using the Criteria as a guide, practitioners can:

Assist a patient from assessment through treatment 

  • Assist a patient from assessment through treatment
  • Work with the patient to determine goals
  • Help rank and rate all the patient’s risks, using the Criteria’s multidimensional approach to determine where to focus treatment and services
  • Determine intensity and frequency of service needed using the Criteria’s detailed guides
    to levels of care


The ASAM Criteria provides one common language for assessing patient need and describes the continuum of addiction care treatment settings. With The ASAM Criteria, managed care organizations can easily work with treatment providers to ensure plan participants are receiving the treatment that best fits their needs and that resources are wisely used.

There are currently more than 10 managed care organizations that license an electronic version
of the criteria, and these companies represent more than 45,000,000 covered lives.

Oversight and Revision of The ASAM Criteria:

Oversight and revision of the criteria is a collaborative process between ASAM leadership and
the Steering Committee of the Coalition for National Clinical Criteria. The coalition represents
major stakeholders in addiction treatment and has been meeting regularly since the
development of the first ASAM Patient Placement Criteria in 1991. The coalition addresses
feedback and ensures that the Criteria adequately serves and supports medical professionals,
employers purchasers and providers of care in both the public and private sectors. (Full roster of
members and their affiliations and minutes of meetings are available upon request).

More information about oversight and revision:

  • Many states across the country are using The ASAM Criteria as the foundation of their efforts to improve the addiction treatment system. Explore this survey of state use>>>
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