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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   who are certified in addiction medicine by either ABPM, ABAM, or AOA.

    Addiction medicine is now a medical subspecialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) with ABPM as the administering board.  In 2017,  ABPM began offering  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.

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

    • There are many benefits to becoming an addiction medicine physician:
    • 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 and a well-trained workforce.
    • 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.  There is a specific taxonomy code approved by CMS for Addiction Medicine that went into effect April 2019 which can be used for National Provider Identifier (NPI) applications.
    • 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 and ABPM’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. What about ABAM Diplomats who are ineligible to take the ABPM exam?

    There are options for ABAM Diplomats who are ineligible to take the ABPM exam to maintain their recognition as addiction medicine physicians.

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

    In 2016, ABAM-certified osteopathic addiction medicine physicians with an active AOA certification  and who maintained their ABAM transitional maintenance of certification were offered a one-time opportunity for an American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Addiction Medicine certification.  AOA is currently investigating the restoration of a certification pathway which would provide an opportunity for osteopathic physicians to obtain certification in the subspecialty of Addiction Medicine.

  • 5. 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 (and today ASAM has two seats). 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 forreimbursement. 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 and ABPM’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, ABAM and ABPM certifications.

  • 6. 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, AOA 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.


  • 7. What are other resources about addiction specialists?

  • 8. 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.

    To find an ABPM-certified addiction medicine physician, go to the website of  the American Board of Preventive Medicine and use the Physician Lookup.

    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.