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Can Addiction Certified Medicine Make A Difference with Treatment?

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

The need for addiction treatment professionals grows every day, but that doesn’t mean all addiction treatment is created equal. Addiction treatment is best provided by a multidisciplinary team of professionals including a Board-certified addiction medicine physician.

It used to be only psychiatrists who could become Board-Certified in the specialty of Addiction Psychiatry.  Other physicians who were interested in providing more specialized addiction treatment could attain knowledge and skills through experience and exam-based certification with ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) but there was no formal Board-Certification in Addiction Medicine. In 2016, that finally changed.

The American Board of Preventative Medicine (ABPM) became the home for the Board-Certified Addiction Medicine specialty. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this certification will help integrate alcohol and drug screening, prevention, and treatment into primary care and prevention medication training.

Intense training, knowledge, and experience

To become an Addiction Medicine Specialist, the physician must demonstrate extensive training, knowledge, and hands-on skills in caring for patients with substance use disorders. These requirements are rigorous which is a good thing for those who will be receiving treatment.  A patient and their loved ones should be confident that the Board-Certified Addiction Medicine physician involved in their care has the highest level of experience and qualification available to assist them in achieving long-term recovery.

Below are the requirements for physicians who seek APBM Board-Certification in Addiction Medicine:

  • Have a medical degree from an accredited U.S. Medical School
  • Have an unrestricted and currently valid license to practice medicine in the U.S.
  • Have primary certification from an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) member board, such as Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, etc.
  • Have credit for completion of training in a non-Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited fellowship program OR meet specific practice currency requirements
  • Have one letter of reference from a physician who is certified by the ABMS

Additionally, a candidate must have the following in clinical involvement in subspecialty-level practice of Addiction Medicine:

  • 1920 hours over the last 5 years
  • Practice must span at least 24 months
  • Practice must consist of board-based professional activity with significant Addiction Medicine responsibility
  • Documentation of Addiction Medicine teaching, research, and administration activities, as well as clinical care or prevention of, or treatment of, individuals who are at risk for or have a substance use disorder may be considered
  • Fellowship activity is not ACGME accredited or less than 12 months in duration (not a completed fellowship) may be applied towards the practice time requirement. The actual training must be described for any fellowship activity

And when it comes to the addiction medicine exam, many topics are covered, including:

  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Neurobiology of addiction
  • Prevention
  • Epidemiological concepts
  • Screening, assessment, and brief intervention
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Co-occurring psychiatric disorders
  • Ethical, legal and liability issues in addiction practice
  • And more

Benefits of Board-Certified Addiction Medicine Physicians on the team

In 2019 ASAM created an updated definition of Addiction:

“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.”

The involvement of highly trained physicians in successfully managing the chronic disease of addiction is equivalent to how other chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are managed and controlled.  Having an equivalent care model helps reduce the stigma of addiction and increase the likelihood that patients will enter treatment and get the help they deserve. 

Physicians champion their fields of expertise in many ways.  Having a specialized physician workforce in the field of addiction will ensure new research and treatment options are being prioritized for funding and development. It will also ensure a strong voice of advocacy with policymakers, insurance providers, law enforcement, and others in our local and national communities who have the power to positively impact patients’ recovery from addiction.

 Addiction treatment facilities that employ Board-Certified Addiction Medicine physicians are demonstrating a commitment to the highest quality, evidence-based care which should improve the success of the treatment they offer.  Successful addiction treatment is critical.  As we have seen in the opioid overdose epidemic – failure to manage addictions successfully can be lethal. The approach to treating substance use disorders has continued to evolve and improve as we have learned more about what causes addictions and what is effective in treating them.  The ABPM Addiction Medicine Board Certification is a giant leap forward that benefits the whole field of addiction treatment.

At Recovery Centers of America, each of our facilities has a Medical Director who is Board-Certified in Addiction Medicine. This is one of many ways we give our patients a leg-up in their recovery. Learn more about our facilities and our comprehensive addiction treatment by calling 1-800-RECOVERY.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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