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Addiction medicine viewed as respected practice

September 22, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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There’s a growing effort to integrate addiction-medicine expertise into graduate medical training. And the goal is not to position the next generation of physicians to recognize addiction in a perfunctory way but more so to address the evident need for treatment of addiction as a medical disorder.

Recently, representatives of graduate medical training programs gathered at the White House for a summit presented by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) to discuss the path forward.

According to attendee William Jacobs, MD, medical director of Georgia's Bluff Plantation and chief of addiction medicine at Medical College of Georgia, "Medicine Responds to Addiction" was meant to accelerate progress in the medical field to address the mismatch between the addiction epidemic and the lack of trained providers, medical intelligence and treatment.  Experts sought ideas for the nation's response to the opiate and addiction crisis and how to increase the number of treatment providers.

For example, there are now 36 medical schools and teaching hospitals across North America with addiction fellowship programs. The ABAM Foundation has set a goal of facilitating a total of 125 accredited programs by 2025.

Jacobs says at the summit, ABAM approved Georgia’s first-ever addiction fellowship, a partnership between the Medical College of Georgia and RiverMend Health’s Bluff Plantation.

“ABAM’s drive to create new addiction fellowships like that in Georgia was supported by primary care boards including internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, as well as boards for preventive and emergency medicine,” he tells Behavioral Healthcare. “In fact, many of these groups are sponsoring ABAM in its quest to obtain a seat on the American Board of Medical Specialties, which would be a landmark for treatment center professionals.”

Jacobs says one thought he took away from the summit is that addiction medicine is now viewed as a respected specialty by other medical specialists.

The next steps are to train more physicians in addiction medicine to facilitate primary care providers and to support increased screening, prevention and demand reduction so patients are identified and treated earlier in the addiction cycle.

“The time has come now to advance addiction medicine by fully integrating it into medical practice,” Patrick O'Connor, president of the ABAM Foundation, said at the summit. “This process has been a long time coming.”