The mixed message behind “Medication-Assisted Treatment” for substance use disorder

Sean M. Robinson, Bryon Adinoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The gap between treatment utilization and treatment need for substance use disorders (SUDs) remains a significant concern in our field. While the growing call to bridge this gap often takes the form of more treatment services and/or better integration of existing services, this perspective proposes that more effective labels for and transparent descriptions of existing services would also have a meaningful impact. Adopting the perspective of a consumer-based health-care model (wherein treatments and services are products and patients are consumers) allows us to consider how labels like Addiction-focused Medical Management, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medication-Assisted Therapy, and others may actually be contributing to the underutilization problem rather than alleviating it. In this perspective, “Medication-Assisted Therapy” for opioid-use disorder (OUD) is singled out and discussed as inherently confusing, providing the message that pharmacotherapy for this disorder is a secondary treatment to other services which are generally regarded, in practice, as ancillary. That this mixed message is occurring amidst a nationwide “opioid epidemic” is a potential cause for concern and may actually serve to reinforce the longstanding, documented stigma against OUD pharmacotherapy. We recommend that referring to pharmacotherapy for SUD as simply “medication,” as we do for other chronic medical disorders, will bring both clarity and precision to this effective treatment approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-150
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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