Addictions treatment mechanisms of change science and implementation science: A critical review

Molly Magill, Stephan Maisto, Brian Borsari, Joseph E. Glass, Kevin Hallgren, Jon Houck, Brian Kiluk, Alexis Kuerbis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This manuscript aims to contribute to the next phase of mechanisms of behavior change (MOBC) science on alcohol or other drug use. Specifically, we encourage the transition from a basic science orientation (i.e., knowledge generation) to a translational science orientation (i.e., knowledge application or Translational MOBC Science). To inform that transition, we examine MOBC science and implementation science and consider how these two research areas can intersect to capitalize on the goals, strengths, and key methodologies of each. First, we define MOBC science and implementation science and offer a brief historical rationale for these two areas of clinical research. Second, we summarize similarities in rationale and discuss two scenarios where one draws from the other—MOBC science on implementation strategy outcomes and implementation science on MOBC. We then focus on the latter scenario, and briefly review the MOBC knowledge base to consider its readiness for knowledge translation. Finally, we provide a series of research recommendations to facilitate the translation of MOBC science. These recommendations include: (1) identifying and targeting MOBC that are well suited for implementation, (2) use of MOBC research results to inform broader health behavior change theory, and (3) triangulation of a more diverse set of research methodologies to build a translational MOBC knowledge base. Ultimately, it is important for gains borne from MOBC science to affect direct patient care, while basic MOBC research continues to be developed and refined over time. Potential implications of these developments include greater clinical significance for MOBC science, an efficient feedback loop between clinical research methodologies, a multi-level approach to understanding behavioral change, and reduced or eliminated siloes between MOBC science and implementation science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-839
Number of pages13
JournalAlcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • causality
  • health behavior change
  • mediation
  • moderation
  • science of behavior change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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