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What is an Addiction Specialist?


  • 1. What is an addiction specialist?

    Addiction specialists are addiction medicine physicians and addiction psychiatrists who hold either subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM), subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), or a Certificate of Added Qualification in Addiction Medicine conferred by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA),  They demonstrate by education, experience, and examination the requisite knowledge and skills to provide prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment for substance use and addiction. In addition, addiction specialists can recognize and treat the psychiatric and physical complications of addiction.

    ASAM’s policy statement on How to Identify a Physician Recognized for Expertness in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Addiction and Substance-related Health Conditions details the competencies and credentials an addiction specialist must possess.

    ASAM’s Standards of Care for the Addiction Specialist Physician details the expectations for professionalism and practice of an addiction specialist.

     


  • 2. What is an addiction medicine physician?

    According to the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM), Addiction Medicine is concerned with the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of persons with the disease of addiction, of those with substance-related health conditions, and of people who show unhealthy use of substances including nicotine, alcohol, prescription medications and other licit and illicit drugs. Physicians in this subspecialty also help family members whose health and functioning are affected by a loved one’s substance use or addiction.

    Addiction medicine physicians are physicians with a primary medical specialty other than psychiatry who are certified in addiction medicine by either ABPM, ABAM, or AOA. In November 2016, ABPM announced that it would offer physicians who are certified by a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) the opportunity to become certified in the subspecialty of Addiction Medicine. The first ABMS-recognized Addiction Medicine board exam will be offered in October 2017. There are multiple pathways to ABPM certification, each of which has different requirements that physicians must meet.

    ABAM-certified addiction medicine physicians who have a current primary ABMS board certification are eligible for the Practice Pathway that allows them to sit for the ABPM exam without completing a separate addiction medicine fellowship. This Practice Pathway will close in five years. After 2022, only those physicians who have completed an addiction medicine fellowship program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will be eligible to take the ABPM addiction medicine board exam.

    ABAM-certified allopathic addiction medicine physicians who are ineligible to sit for the ABPM board exam and who maintain their ABAM transitional maintenance of certification and will receive a Lifetime Certification from ABAM when the Practice Pathway closes.

    ABAM-certified osteopathic addiction medicine physicians who are ineligible to sit for the ABPM board exam and who maintain their ABAM transitional maintenance of certification will be eligible for an American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Addiction Medicine certification. On April 12, 2016, the AOA passed a resolution that will provide DOs who are ABAM diplomates with a process to attain an AOA subspecialty certification in Addiction Medicine. The resolution calls for the AOA to create a mechanism to allow those osteopathic physicians who have an active AOA primary certification and an active ABAM certification to be granted subspecialty/Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) certification in Addiction Medicine, with a requirement that they maintain such certification through the AOA’s Addiction Medicine Osteopathic Continuous Certification (OCC) process.

  • 3. What are the benefits of becoming an addiction specialist?

    There are many benefits to becoming an addiction specialist:

      • Joining a distinguished community of physicians whose priority is the advancement of patient care and safety.
      • Now that addiction is more visible and commonly diagnosed, there is a bigger interest and need in having a better understanding of addiction.
      • You can save lives by helping bridge the gap of 20 million people struggling with addiction with only 4,400 specialists.  
      • You will have increased practice-based and clinical efficiencies, and enhanced communication with colleagues, patients, and caregivers.
      • You may increase your compensation. It is estimated that physicians with board certification earn 67% more than those without it.[1]  ¹.
      • Addiction medicine is a “self-designated specialty,” and has designated specific code (“ADM”) that physicians can select as their specialty, and that will be listed as such in the AMA Physician Masterfile.
      • Certification in addiction medicine is a credential that allows physicians to prescribe “narcotic drugs in Schedule III, IV, or V or combinations of such drugs to patients for maintenance or detoxification treatment” under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) and is one of only two pathways that qualify physicians to treat the maximum number of 275 patients
      • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognize addiction medicine as eligible for reimbursement.
      • Divisions of addiction services in several state health departments require that medical directors of public treatment programs be ASAM-Certified (the certification process that was the predecessor to ABAM’s processes of certifying physician specialists). These states include Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Other states such as Wisconsin, recognize ABAM and ASAM certification as a measure of physician knowledge and skills to treat patients with addiction and hold clinical leadership positions in state-certified treatment agencies and programs.
      • SAMHSA’s federal guidelines for OTPS specify that it is preferred that OTP medical directors be board certified in their primary medical specialty and in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry.[2]


    [1] Medscape Business of Medicine (2013). Physician Compensation Report 2013. New York, NY: Leslie Kane, MA. Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/compensation/2013/public

    [2] http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PEP15-FEDGUIDEOTP/PEP15-FEDGUIDEOTP.pdf

  • 4. Who recognizes addiction medicine as a specialized area of medical practice?

    The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), in 2016, officially recognized Addiction Medicine as a medical subspecialty.

    The American Medical Association (AMA), in 1988, granted the American Society of Addiction Medicine a seat, with a vote, in the AMA House of Delegates. In 1990, the AMA recognized addiction medicine as a "self-designated specialty," and has designated a specific code ("ADM') that physicians can select as their specialty, and that will be listed as such in the AMA Physician Masterfile.

    The U.S. Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) signed into law in 2000 (DATA 2000) recognizes certification in addiction medicine as a credential that allows physicians to prescribe "narcotic drugs in Schedule III, IV, or V or combinations of such drugs to patients for maintenance or detoxification treatment." A Final Rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2016 increases the number of patients that certain physicians can treat under DATA 2000. Board-certified addiction medicine physicians qualify by nature of their board certification to treat the maximum number of 275 patients.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognize addiction medicine as eligible for reimbursement. Coding of Specialty Codes

    Divisions of addiction services in several state health departments require that medical directors of public treatment programs be ASAM-Certified (the certification process that was the predecessor to ABAM’s processes of certifying physician specialists in addiction medicine via examination). These states include Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  Other states, such as Wisconsin, recognize ABAM and ASAM certification as a measure of physician knowledge and skills to treat patients with addiction and hold clinical leadership positions in state-certified treatment agencies and programs.

    Many hospitals and insurance companies recognize addiction medicine and ABAM certification.

  • 5. What does FASAM and DFASAM mean?

    When you see the letters “FASAM” or “DFASAM” after your physician’s name, they mean that he or she is a Fellow or Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).  

    These designations mean the physician has been certified by ABAM, ABPM, ABPN or another organization acceptable to ASAM, and that the physician has been an ASAM member for at least two consecutive years. 

    Distinguished Fellows have the added distinction of being recognized by their peers for excellence and skill in medical practice, teaching, scholarship and professional accomplishments.

    FASAM and DFASAM are marks of distinction. They say that the physician has made special efforts to be a better doctor through advanced training and activities such as public service, professional society engagement, and continuing medical education.  Ultimately, it says that the physician cares about delivering high-quality healthcare.


  • 6. What are other resources about addiction specialists?

  • 7. How to find an addiction specialist?

    To find an ASAM member, search the ASAM Member Directory. Please note this search yields all ASAM members, not just physicians.

    To find an ABAM-certified physician, go to the website of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) and use the Find a Doctor tool.

    Starting in 2018, you can to the website of the American Board of Preventive Medicine to find ABPM-certified addiction medicine specialists.

    To find an ABPN-certified addiction psychiatrist, go to the website of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology  and use the ABPN VerifyCERT tool.

     To find an AAAP member, go to the Patient Referral Program of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP).

    Note that ASAM administered the exam for physicians to be certified in addiction medicine from 1984 - 2008. The American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) started administering the exam in 2010. Please contact ASAM to verify the certification status of a particular ASAM-certified physician. 


  • 8. How to find a physician authorized to prescribe buprenorphine?