A Major Step Forward for Addiction Medicine

Only about 10 percent of the 21 million Americans who meet the need for care for an alcohol or drug use disorder receive any form of treatment, and much of the treatment available does not meet standards for evidence-based care. There are many attitudinal and systemic reasons for this treatment gap, including stigma against treating people with addictions and institutional barriers to providing or funding addiction treatment. Another obstacle is the fact that, until now, addiction medicine has not been a recognized area in which physicians can specialize–a fact that has had important implications for the quality and amount of education that medical students receive and that new physicians are given in their residency training for addressing patients with substance use disorders.

A major milestone was reached on March 14, 2016, when the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) formally announced recognition of the field of Addiction Medicine as a medical subspecialty. This is a development with enormous symbolic and practical implications for health care and for those affected by drug and alcohol use disorders, including nicotine addiction. It signals the legitimacy of Addiction Medicine as a field of specialized study and practice, and it will enable the accreditation and expansion of Addiction Medicine training programs.

Being certified by an ABMS-recognized medical specialty or subspecialty demonstrates a physician’s expertise in that specialty area. “Board certification” is thus a prized and necessary credential to work as a medical specialist, assuring that a physician meets the highest standards in his or her particular field. The emergence of this standard credential for Addiction Medicine considerably raises the bar for the quality of care in this crucial medical domain, and it will lead to major enhancement of the health care workforce.

Until now, the only physicians able to gain certification as addiction specialists have —> Read More