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New Addiction Medicine Certification: What It Is & What It Means for The Future of Addiction Treatment

New Addiction Medicine Certification: What It Is & What It Means for The Future of Addiction Treatment

We are currently facing the deadliest drug crisis in the history of the United States. Today, drug overdoses in America now kill more people than car crashes and gun homicides combined. And the rate of addiction is rising even higher. In fact, addiction has been labeled by some professionals as America’s most neglected disease. But with the development and sponsoring of the new Addiction Medicine Certification by the American Board of Preventative Medicine (ABPM), we’re one step closer to finally taking substance use disorders seriously and working towards a less addicted world.

Addiction Medication & Treatment: A Brief History

You might not know it if you aren’t directly involved in the industry but addiction medication and treatment has come a long way in the past few decades. One of the past prevailing opinions on the matter was that addiction, rather than being viewed as the disease that it is, was seen as a type of moral failure – a flaw caused by a weakness of character alone. While it’s true that the types of programs founded in this belief may have in fact helped a large number of people in the past (take a look at A.A. for example), the effectiveness of most of them is actually quite questionable. And even today, after the advent of evidence-based approaches to addiction, many addiction sufferers just aren’t getting the care they need. Part of it is due to the fact that many individuals with substance use disorders don’t seek out the treatment they require. But ineffectiveness of poorly constructed programs is also to blame here too. And these programs have been operating without scrutiny for quite some time now. Thomas McLellan, co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute, told science writer Anne M. Fletcher: there are exceptions, but of the many thousands of treatment programs out there, most use exactly the same kind of treatment you would have received in 1950, not modern scientific approaches. A frightening fact for addicts and addiction specialists alike.

The New Addiction Medicine Certification

Beginning in the fall of 2017, however, the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) is sponsoring and administering a new Addiction Medicine Certification for physicians. The certification, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), will help to integrate alcohol and drug screening, prevention, and treatment into primary care and preventive medicine training. This new certification is an undeniably a step in the right direction, especially as it’s offered by such a prestigious organization. Offering certification in the field of addiction medicine will bring treatment methods into the modern age rather than letting them linger in the ideas of the past. While the exam registration period is currently closed (late application closed July 17), you can check the official ABPM site for Addiction Medicine Certification throughout the year for updates on 2018 deadlines.

Addiction Medicine Board Certification Requirements

The requirements to become an addiction medicine specialist are a bit extensive. This, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, the more requirements there are, the more qualified a candidate must be to meet them. Here’s a quick roundup of the basics. You must:

  • 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
  • Have credit for completion of training in a non-Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited fellowship program OR meet a number of practice currency requirements (discussed below)
  • Have one letter of reference from a physician who is certified by the ABMS

The practice currency requirements are as follows. A qualified candidate must have all of 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.

In addition to meeting these requirements, candidates must also pay several fees and pass an exam administered by the ABPM as well. For more detail on the specific qualifications listed above, have a look at the official document from the ABPM.

The ABPM Addiction Medicine Exam

Like most official exams administered by the ABPM, the addiction medicine exam is quite comprehensive. It covers a wide range of topics including:

For a closer look at the topics covered in the exam, feel free to check out the ABPM official 2017 Examination Blueprint. Considered to be one of the most comprehensive Addiction Medicine training programs, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 2017 Review Course is the best place to look for training for this certification examination.

Primary Benefits: Quicker Identification and Treatment

One of the most notable benefits that comes with this new certification is the fact that a more institutionalized approach to addiction will help modern physicians both identify and treat patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) much more quickly than before. On the one hand, physicians looking to complete this certification will be more actively involved in research on the subject, making them more knowledgeable on the topic than other physicians. Beyond that, these certified physicians will further enhance addiction treatment by contributing their own research into the field.

Primary Benefits: Paves Way for More Qualified Addiction Treatment Centers

Addiction treatment centers themselves will also stand to benefit from the new ABPM Addiction Medicine Certification for a number of reasons. In the first place, furthering addiction knowledge among primary physicians will mean that patients who are referred to treatment centers will typically have been given the immediate care they needed. What’s more, addiction treatment centers now have another quantifiable measure of addiction medicine specialty that they can use to pick out the most qualified medical personnel and physicians to bring on board. And that means with a more qualified staff, addiction centers will be able to deliver a whole new level of care that not only ensures patient safety during recovery, but also helps to reduce their chances of eventual relapse.

Primary Benefits: Reduces the Stigma Attached to Substance Use Disorders

And finally, when one of the country’s most reputable medical certification organizations offers accreditation in a field, it’s giving that field a hefty dose of legitimacy. ABPM’s sponsoring of this certification sends the message that this field is one worth studying with science-based research – that the treatment methods that are widely used today just aren’t cutting it. Addiction has come a long way from once being viewed simply as a moral failure or character flaw. And this certification proves it.

The New Addiction Medicine Certification: Long-Awaited Progress

The implementation of this new certification signifies the industry’s growing acceptance of the intricacy of and necessity for more advanced forms of addiction treatment. Though there is still much work that needs to be done, this certification is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.