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The New Edition of the ASAM Criteria: What’s New and Why

The New Edition of the ASAM Criteria: What’s New and Why


A new edition of the Patient Placement Criteria of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is coming soon. The ASAM Criteria is the most comprehensive set of guidelines for assessment, service planning, placement, continued stay and transfer/discharge of individuals with addiction and co-occurring conditions. Its use is required in over 30 states and in Department of Defense addiction programs around the world. Many payers also manage care using the criteria that are the most intensively researched set of addiction placement criteria. In October a new edition will be unveiled at ASAM’s State of the Art Conference in Crystal City, Virginia. Here is a look into the crystal ball to see what will be new.

New Name and New Sections  

One change upfront is a new name. Instead of Patient Placement Criteria, the new edition will be called: The ASAM Criteria: Treatment Criteria for Substance-Related, Addictive and Co-Occurring Conditions. Earlier editions described various levels of care, or intensities of service, for the treatment of substance-related disorders. The focus was on “placing” patients into a circumscribed “level of care.” In the new edition, the notion of “placement” is still important, but the new edition expands thinking beyond just placement in a specialty addiction treatment level of care and program. It encourages integration of addiction services in general healthcare, mental health and a variety of other settings. 

Many things have changed since the publication of the 2001 second edition-revised (ASAM PPC-2R). Over the years, addiction treatment clinicians working in various settings have raised questions on how to apply the criteria in their setting. This updated edition will have special sections for those working within the criminal justice system; with older adults; with parents or prospective parents receiving addiction treatment concurrently with their children; and with patients in safety-sensitive occupations (pilots, physicians, and so forth). Two brand-new sections on emerging understandings of addiction will address tobacco use disorder and gambling disorder. Updated diagnostic terminology will be consistent with the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5.

Working with Managed Care  

Another goal of the new edition is to have the ASAM Criteria enhance assessment, placement and the care management processes for providers and payers. Both addiction treatment clinicians and payers spend significant amounts of time and resources communicating back and forth in the treatment payment approval process. So there will be a section on working effectively with managed care and in the context of healthcare reform. The ASAM Criteria Software slated to also be released in October will work hand in hand with the criteria book to make the utilization review and care management process much more efficient for everyone involved—providers, payers and care managers.

More User-Friendly  

A unique partnership between ASAM and The Change Companies promises to make this edition the best ever for user-friendliness. Using the criteria can be difficult to follow, especially for newcomers. The editorial and publishing team is committed to making the book much easier to use than previous 1991, 1996 and 2001 editions. The table of contents parallels the clinical thinking process from multidimensional assessment to service planning to placement in the level of care. The Change Companies already has some innovative ideas on how to make it easier for readers to find the section of the book they are looking for. Through the use of graphics and layouts the reader can access information much more specifically and efficiently. 

Careful attention has been paid to change terminology to be strength-based, recovery-oriented and explanatory of ASAM’s definition of addiction that encompasses an individual’s pathological pursuit of reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. So this new edition speaks to more than substance-related disorders and embraces other addictive behaviors—for example, gambling. My crystal ball says you will get a lot of new perspectives from the next edition of the ASAM Criteria coming to you in October 2013. Visit ASAMCriteria.org for additional information and to learn more about preorder benefits.