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December 01, 2009

Physicians in all areas of medical practice—not just those already specializing in addiction—can receive certification to treat drug addiction under a new program the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) is establishing.

"We want addiction prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment to become routine aspects of medical care, available virtually any place health care is provided," says ABAM President Dr. Kevin Kunz.

ABAM was founded in 2007 to set standards for educating physicians in addiction medicine, to certify primary care practitioners and a wide range of medical specialists to treat addiction, and to require and track continuing education in addiction treatment. A major focus of the program is the creation of accredited addiction residency programs in medical schools and hospitals across the Nation.

Dr. Kunz says he believes that within 3 to 7 years, "a 1- to 2-year residency will be mandatory for those seeking certification in addiction medicine." He says ABAM is establishing a framework for model residencies that meet the criteria of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the group that accredits postgraduate medical training programs in the United States. ABAM will also seek recognition for the field of addiction medicine by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

For a limited time, physicians who meet certain criteria can become ABAM-certified without completing all the training requirements that will eventually be established. These include some 4,500 physicians who have been certified by examination by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. They can apply for "grandfathering" until December 31, 2009. Thereafter, physicians who are certified in a nonaddiction specialty and meet certain other criteria can receive ABAM certification by taking an exam, scheduled for December 11, 2010.

Further information on ABAM and the exam are available at