What Really is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

2019-05-13T17:55:29-07:00May 17th, 2019|

Recovering from any type of addiction isn’t an easy process. But luckily, these days there are many different options for different people when it comes to treatment. Of the many therapies that can be used to treat substance abuse disorders, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a combination therapy that uses medications alongside counseling and behavioral therapies to treat the abuse of substances.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

MAT is the use of medications used in synergy with behavioral therapies or counseling in rehab. It’s effective especially at providing effective treatment in Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). This can be done to help people sustain a decent recovery. This is described as a “whole-patient” approach to treat substance abuse.

medication for MAT

The approach has been shown to, according to the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), improve the survival of the patient, and increase the retention in the various treatments.

In addition to this, it has helped improve birth outcomes with women who are pregnant but have substance use disorders, reduce criminal activity associated with substance use disorders, as well as improve the chances of a patient to gain and keep successful employment.

By using FDA-approved medications, in combination with talking therapies like counseling, the intent is to provide a more comprehensive approach to treating the underlying problem.

What Medications Are Prescribed?

Depending on the situation, the medication can differ. For someone with opioid addiction, medications like suboxone, buprenorphine, naloxone, and naltrexone can be used to manage an addiction to opioids like codeine, morphine, heroin as well as oxycodone and hydrocodone– semi-synthetic opioids. For those that have an alcohol addiction, medications like acamprosate, disulfiram, as well as the aforementioned naltrexone are used to great effect.

The Treatment Process

the brain sometimes needs medication-assisted treatment

Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) serve to provide MAT for those who are diagnosed with an Opioid Use Disorder. OTPs focus on improving the quality of life and as part of Federal law, patients who have treatments in an opioid treatment program require counseling, as well as medical, educational, and vocational treatments on top of their medication. In addition to this, patients undergoing Medication-Assisted Treatment need to receive counseling, as dictated by Federal law. This can comprise of different types of behavioral therapy.

How Long Does Someone Need To Take Part In MAT?

It depends on the individual. Their plan is created alongside their doctor. This could mean that medications for an individual can be taken for months, years, or even the rest of the patient’s life. It all depends on the situation. As the treatment’s goal is a full recovery, as well as the ability to live a self-directed life, the process can take as long as is deemed necessary by the doctor in open communication with the patient in recovery.

working up to recovery one step at a time

How Effective Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

The effect of MAT has been proven and has been shown to improve patient survival. As well as the already mentioned positives relating to pregnancy and survival of the patient, it’s been shown that these therapies and medications can contribute to reducing a person’s risk of contracting Hepatitis C or HIV. This is done by reducing the potential for relapse. Substance misuse can contribute to issues like HIV, viral hepatitis and AIDS. And although its effectiveness has been highlighted, MAT is still underused in many areas.

Long-Term Success

There is a big misconception around MAT due to the fact that it appears to be substituting one “drug” for another. While MAT helps with withdrawal symptoms and psychological addictions, the perception on the surface that it is the substitution of one addiction for another. But in fact, it’s been shown that when supplied with the proper dosage, the medications used in Medication-Assisted Treatment have no adverse effects on a person. Think of it like replacing a self-abusive lifestyle of hard drugs with a therapeutic approach incorporating prescriptions that can re-balance a patient’s brain chemistry while in recovery. 

doctor's care during medication-assisted treatment

On the same note, MAT is becoming more well-known in its simple fact that this type of treatment helps prevent relapse. Since it decreases drug cravings and can help a recovering addict find balance long-term, the desire to return to harmful drug or alcohol use is low.

Preventing Accidental Overdose

As a combination therapy, Medication-Assisted Treatment has been shown to help individuals cope with urges, and improve their lifestyle better. Plus, as the statistics released by the CDC that highlights that 72,000 fatal drug overdoses, as well as 88,000 annual deaths that were attributed to overconsumption of alcohol in 2017, Medication-Assisted Treatment has been on the rise. And between 2017 and 2018, more than 15,000 physicians became certified to treat people suffering from an opioid addiction via Medication-Assisted Treatment.

Whole-Person (Holistic) Approach

As there are stigmas associated with the misuse of opioids, this has caused a few stumbling blocks for MAT to become more widely used. And for a lot of people that have made the bold claim that MAT isn’t a “realistic” approach to recovery, the fact that it’s a therapy that not only works to medicate the issue but also addresses the underlying psychological condition, means that it’s a force to be reckoned with in the battle of overcoming opioid addiction and alcohol abuse.

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