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Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jul;232:324-331. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.05.027. Epub 2019 May 17.

Intervention stigma: How medication-assisted treatment marginalizes patients and providers.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, & Preventive Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, RIB, Suite 190, 2703 Frontier, NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, USA. Electronic address:


Methadone and buprenorphine are drugs used to treat opioid use disorders, and are labeled the "gold standard" of treatment by the National Institutes of Health. Yet associating with these forms of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) subjects individuals to stigma from healthcare personnel both within and outside addiction treatment communities. This study uses the case of MAT to propose a new category of stigma: "intervention stigma." Unlike "condition stigmas" that mark individuals due to diagnosis, intervention stigma marks patients and health professionals due to involvement with a medical treatment or other form of intervention. In-depth interviews with 47 addiction treatment professionals explore how individuals working in MAT experience discrimination and prejudice from other healthcare professionals, especially abstinent treatment professionals who disagree with the use of medications to treat opioid use disorders. This discrimination and prejudice stems at times from stigma toward addiction diagnoses, and at other times toward unique features of MAT itself. The experiences of addiction treatment professionals illustrate how medical interventions can mark patients and professionals in ways that affect patient care, and thus must be added to the scope of destigmatization efforts operating in the health sector.


Addiction; Behavioral health; Health professionals; Medical intervention; Medication-assisted treatment; Opioids; Stigma; Treatment; United States

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