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Adoption and Implementation of Medications in Addiction Treatment Programs

Knudsen, Hannah K. PhD; Abraham, Amanda J. PhD; Roman, Paul M. PhD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: March 2011 - Volume 5 - Issue 1 - p 21-27
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e3181d41ddb
Original Research

Objectives: Little is known about the extent to which medications are being implemented as routine care in addiction treatment programs. This research describes medication adoption and implementation within the privately funded treatment sector.

Methods: Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 345 administrators of a nationally representative sample of privately funded substance treatment organizations in the United States.

Results: Rates of adoption of addiction treatment medications in private sector programs were lower than the adoption of psychiatric medications. Even when analyses were restricted to programs with access to physicians, adoption of each addiction treatment medication had occurred in less than 50% of programs. Within adopting programs, implementation was highly variable. Although approximately 70% of patients with cooccurring psychiatric diagnoses received psychiatric medications, rates of implementation of medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence and alcohol use disorders were just 34.4% and 24.0%, respectively.

Conclusions: Although previous research has documented higher rates of medication adoption in privately funded treatment programs, this study revealed that both adoption and implementation of pharmacotherapies to treat addiction remains modest. Future research should examine the different types of barriers to implementation, such as physician decision making, patient preferences, and system-level barriers stemming from financing and public policy.

From the Department of Behavioral Science and Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (HKK), College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; Center for Research on Behavioral Health and Human Services Delivery (AJA, PMR), and Department of Sociology (AJA, PMR), University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Received for publication July 1, 2009; accepted December January 13, 2010.

Supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA13110), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (F32AA016872 and R01AA015974), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (Grant no. 65111).

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Hannah K. Knudsen, PhD, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky, 109 Medical Behavioral Science Building, Lexington, KY 40536-0086. e-mail:

© 2011 American Society of Addiction Medicine