August 24, 2011

Ten U.S. medical institutions have just introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine. Doctors who have completed medical school and a primary residency will be able to spend a year studying the relationship between addiction, heredity, and brain chemistry.

The new accreditation is the result of work by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), which ensures that addiction medicine physicians have the knowledge and skills to prevent, recognize, and treat addiction. Founded in 2007, ABAM certifies addiction medicine physicians across a range of medical specialties. The board sets standards for physician education, assesses physicians’ knowledge, and requires and tracks life-long education. ABAM expects to accredit an additional 10 to 15 residency programs this year.

Each institution has developed its own curriculum, although all residents, regardless of their institution, will learn to recognize and diagnose substance abuse, conduct brief interventions that spell out the treatment options, and prescribe the proper medications. The doctors also will be expected to understand the legal and practical implications of substance abuse. For more information about the new U.S. addiction residency programs, visit ABAM.

Although ABAM certification is open only to licensed physicians from the United States, U.S. Territories, and Canada, physicians from other countries may become certified as addiction specialists through the International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) exam, which is open to graduates of any medical school recognized by the World Health Organization. For more information about the ISAM exam, visit the ISAM Web site.