A Letter to ASAM Members
May 1, 2023
Dear ASAM Members,
As ASAM’s 30th president, I am honored to serve alongside this diverse and accomplished membership of addiction specialists. We are the change agents leading the modernization of the health care landscape. Together, we can build bridges to addiction treatment throughout our communities, support the expansion of the addiction medicine workforce, and dive deeper into understanding the science of addiction. By continuing to transfer scientific knowledge into clinical practice, we will ensure that we treat patients where they are and increase our ability to save lives.
My connection with ASAM began 21 years ago, shortly before I was honored to be selected as a Ruth Fox Scholar. In many ways, my professional development as an addiction medicine specialist has paralleled the growth of the field at large. During the last two decades, addiction medicine has evolved from a small field in which clinician-delivered services were largely sequestered in specialty settings to addiction medicine’s current status as a formally board-certified specialty with addiction medicine specialist clinicians working throughout the healthcare system. Addiction medicine clinicians work to prevent and treat addiction in a growing number of healthcare settings, including in community health centers, street medicine programs, specialty mental health settings, hospitals, reaching patients of all ages. ASAM has likewise grown in size and influence, with our membership doubling over the last decade to currently over 7,000 members. Our membership has also become more diverse, representing a wide range of specialties and practitioners. ASAM continues to extend our influence by working with a broadening number of organizational partners and policy makers.
More healthcare practitioners are making stronger connections through ASAM than ever before. These relationships enhance the effectiveness of our work and increase patient access to lifesaving treatment. We also see the powerful impact of similar meaningful connections and relationships on patients’ well-being. One of the most debilitating aspects of addiction is isolation, which can unravel families and friendships and obstruct the pursuit of hopes and dreams. As addiction specialists and ASAM members, we can battle this isolation by fostering the “continuum of connection” in our professional lives. Involvement with ASAM empowers us to cultivate meaningful connections with our peers in addiction medicine and equips us to better connect with our patients. As these networks are strengthened, ASAM – and the field of addiction medicine as a whole – will more effectively modernize the healthcare system and improve the lives of patients.
While ASAM continues to face many daunting challenges, the treatment gap is the biggest threat to the health and well-being of the patients we serve. We can reduce the trend of substance-related mortality by supporting effective medical and public health interventions throughout the health care system that reaches beyond the examination room and into the community. Because addiction treatment has historically been positioned as a destination only for those ready for specialty care, people who need effective and lifesaving treatment are too often not receiving it. The medical community must proactively engage with people earlier – including those who aren’t ready for abstinence – by providing multiple prevention and treatment approaches including psychosocial support, counseling, and medication. If we wait for patients to pursue treatment on their own, too many will die.
ASAM leadership will continue to focus on the well-being of our members and reinforce the autonomy of our roles as addiction specialists. Please continue to support our efforts to ensure addiction treatment is fairly compensated, advocate for increased patient access to addiction prevention and treatment, and reduce disparities in addiction health outcomes.
ASAM’s ask is for you to be active in your local ASAM chapter, add your voice to ASAM’s public policy initiatives, serve on an ASAM writing or guidance committee, and maintain visibility for the medical community as a champion to treat addiction. There is an opportunity for every member to get involved through an ASAM opportunity aligned with their interests and abilities.
ASAM plays a critical role in shaping the future of addiction medicine. The level at which we do this together determines the outcome. Your individual experience, knowledge, and skills are vital to our collective effort.
Thank you for your membership and for your dedication to treating addiction.