Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are effective treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD), but levels of use remain low. Given the importance of the news media as a source of health information for the public and its role in shaping knowledge about these medications, we examined reporting on OUD medication treatment amid the opioid crisis. Analyzing news media reporting can provide insight into the public dialogue around this issue. Standardized search terms were used to query high-circulation/viewership US news sources in the period 2007–16 for stories about OUD medications. News reporting about the medications increased substantially in 2015–16. Local news coverage in states with high opioid overdose rates highlighted more negative than positive consequences of OUD medication use. Fewer than 40 percent of news stories about the medications mentioned that they were underused. Although addiction experts view underuse of OUD medications as a significant barrier to combating the opioid crisis, our findings suggest that underuse has not been framed as a problem in most news media reporting on these medications. Public health and addiction experts need to develop more effective strategies for disseminating information on the value of these medications in reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality.
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article