American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)

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The American Society of Addiction Medicine (4601 North Park Avenue, Arcade Suite 101, Chevy Chase, MD 20815; 301-656-3920; is a not-for-profit organization of physicians in all medical specialties and subspecialties who devote a significant part of their practice to treating patients addicted to, or having problems with, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. The society strives to have addiction recognized as a medical disorder by health insurance and managed care providers, and the medical community at large. Many of its members are actively involved in medical education, research, and public policy issues concerning the treatment and prevention of addiction.

ASAM's roots can be traced to the early 1950s, when Dr. Ruth Fox organized regular meetings at the New York Academy of Medicine with other physicians interested in alcoholism and its treatment. These meetings led to the establishment, in 1954, of the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism, which eventually became the American Medical Society on Alcoholism (AMSA). Another state medical society devoted to addiction as a subspecialty, the California Society for the Treatment of Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, was established in the 1970s. By 1982, the American Academy of Addictionology was incorporated, and all these groups united within AMSA the following year. Because the organization was concerned with all drugs of addiction, not only alcohol, and was interested in establishing addiction medicine as part of mainstream medical practice, the organization was renamed the American Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, which was soon changed to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) in 1989. In 1988, the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates admitted ASAM as a voting member and in 1990, the AMA recognized addiction medicine as a medical specialty. In the late 1990s, ASAM and the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association (AMBHA) began an ongoing collaboration to publish statements of consensus on various issues such as the effective treatment of addictive disorders and credentialing of clinical professionals, among others.

The stated mission and goals of ASAM are to increase access to and improve the quality of addictions treatment; educate physicians, medical students, and the public; promote research and prevention; and establish addiction medicine as a specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

By the late 1990s, membership in the society exceeded 3,500, with chapters in all 50 states, as well as overseas. Membership consists of private- and group-practice physicians, corporate medical directors, residents, and medical students, as well as retired physicians. ASAM-certified members with at least 5 years' active participation in the society, as well as involvement in related organizations and activities, may become Fellows.

Educational activities of the society are conducted through publications, courses, and clinical and scientific conferences. Publications include, among others, a bimonthly newsletter, ASAM News ; the Journal of Addictive Diseases, published quarterly; the ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, a comprehensive reference guide; and the Patient Placement Criteria for the Treatment of Substance-Related Disorders, a clinical guide for matching adult and adolescent patients to appropriate levels of care. Courses include the Ruth Fox Course for Physicians; Medical Review Officer (MRO) certification training; and in-depth studies of addiction medicine. An annual medical-scientific conference includes scientific symposia, clinically oriented courses and workshops, and presentations of submitted papers.

In its continued effort to establish the legitimacy of addiction medicine as a subspecialty within medicine, ASAM administers a 6-hour certification examination, is a primary sponsor of medical postgraduate fellowships in alcoholism and drug abuse, and has developed guidelines for the training of physicians in this area of medical practice.

Marc Galanter

Jerome H. Jaffe

Revised by Nancy Faerber

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American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)

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American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)