AOA responds to opioid crisis by offering clinical practice pathway for AOA Addiction Medicine certification

Eligible DOs can obtain the certification after spending 1,000 practice hours on Addiction Medicine over a two-year period.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

To help increase the number of physicians who are certified addiction specialists—which the nation needs more of as it battles an opioid epidemic—AOA Certifying Board Services recently began offering a clinical pathway to AOA board certification in Addiction Medicine.

This certification is available to DOs who are AOA or ABMS board-certified in a primary specialty. To be eligible for the certification’s clinical pathway, they must have spent a minimum of 1,000 practice hours over a two-year period on Addiction Medicine. The two years of practice do not need to be continuous; however, they must have taken place in the five-year period prior to application.

At least half of the practice hours must be devoted to direct patient care. The other half can include activities such as published research, teaching activities within an accredited medical school or ACGME residency, and live or recorded live CME activities.

Urgent need

In 2018, over 67,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S., a significantly higher number than died in car accidents that year. Now, experts fear that the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the opioid epidemic, with some areas reporting dramatic increases in the number of opioid-related deaths.

The nation has a shortage of physicians who are certified addiction specialists, according to a 2017 White House report. In 2009, it was estimated that the nation needed at least 6,000 such specialists, the report noted. In 2017, there were only 4,400 certified addiction specialists in the U.S., and demand would have been even greater than in 2009 due to the worsening opioid epidemic.

To assist patients with substance use disorder in accessing high-quality health care, the AOA is committed to credentialing physicians who have specialized knowledge of addiction medicine, says AOA President Thomas L. Ely, DO.

“Many communities across the country are reeling from the double blows of the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “Each has been devastating for countless families and stretched many public health departments to the breaking point.

“Increasing the pool of physicians who are certified in addiction medicine is necessary to provide greater access to high-quality treatment among patients with substance use disorders. Our DOs are eager to address substance use disorders using a whole-person approach to care.”


The clinical pathway will be available for three years following the first administration of the initial exam.

During this period, AOA Addiction Medicine certification will also be available to DOs who have completed an AOA- or ACGME-accredited fellowship in Addiction Medicine, DOs with active American Board of Addiction Medicine certification, and DOs who completed an American College of Academic Addiction Medicine fellowship within the five years prior to applying.

Following the end of the three-year period, physicians will only be able to qualify for AOA subspecialty certification in Addiction Medicine by completing an ACGME-accredited addiction medicine fellowship.

The AOA Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists is currently reviewing eligibility criteria for MDs to obtain AOA subspecialty certification in Addiction Medicine.

The initial exam for AOA Addiction Medicine certification is scheduled for Dec. 7-13, 2020. View more details on the exams page.

The American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM) is also providing a Review Course for the AOA’s Certification Exam in Addiction Medicine on Oct. 3-4, 2020, in a virtual conference format. To learn more about details and registration, please check the AOAAM website.

More information about the certification, eligibility and required documentation is available in this FAQ.