Quality & Science

ASAM Updates Definitions, Terminology, and Language

by | November 15, 2021

The ASAM Quality Improvement Council (QIC) is pleased to share the initial results of work conducted by the Terminology and Definitions (TAD) Subcommittee.  The subcommittee is tasked with keeping current, the language, terminology, and definitions used by ASAM in order to support communication, research, and publication efforts. Definitions and terms updated by the subcommittee, and subsequently approved by both the QIC and the ASAM Board of Directors are released once they are approved. The first of these definitions are important in helping inform the perspective on medication use for the treatment of substance use disorders:


Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT)

When the acronym MAT is used or referenced in laws, regulations, academic literature, the media, and the vernacular, we recommend to read MAT as medication for addiction treatment. This term takes into account all manifestations of addiction and indicates that there are medications specifically tailored for treatment. ASAM recommends the term MAT be retired from use and instead use the term addiction medications to refer to pharmacotherapy for substance use disorders.


Addiction Medications

Medications specifically indicated for and prescribed to treat substance use disorders (e.g., buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, varenicline for tobacco use disorder), both as an initial lifesaving and motivational engagement strategy (i.e., withdrawal management) as well as part of a long-term treatment plan similar to other chronic diseases such as bipolar disorder or diabetes.



Opioid is a term that designates all compounds, natural and synthetic, exogenous and endogenous, that bind to and activate any of the opioid receptors.



Opiate refers to opioids derived from the naturally occurring alkaloid compounds produced in the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, and includes morphine, codeine, and thebaine.