Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is one of the most effective options available for treating people with heroin and opioid addiction and preventing relapse.
Non-12-step treatment centers such as Oro House offer MAT with evidence-based therapies to combat addiction effectively and ensure a lasting recovery. Its use is based on years of research and experiential data.
What is Medication Assisted Treatment?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines Medication Assisted Treatment as “the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a ‘whole-patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.”
MAT is an evidence-based practice used by behavioral health organizations to combat drug and alcohol addiction. It is especially useful amid the ongoing heroin and opioid crisis in the United States.
Why is Medication Assisted Treatment Used?
Medication Assisted Treatment is a therapy approach that has shown to help increase rates of retention in addiction treatment, decrease the use of illicit opiates, improve a patient’s work productivity, social responsibility, and even reduce birth complications among women with a substance use disorder.
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
Opioids are a class of drugs that can be highly addictive if misused or abused. They include illegal drugs like heroin or prescription medications such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, fentanyl, and oxycodone.
The use of opioids can be dangerous, especially since the euphoric effects of the substances can prompt people to misuse them. The substances are highly-addictive because they alter the brain’s chemistry leading to tolerance and dependence.
Opioid addiction is a long-lasting disorder that can wreak havoc on a person’s health, finances, and social life. The person using the drugs may struggle with an overwhelming urge or cravings for more of the substance.
Opiate addiction is an increasingly pressing issue demanding immediate intervention. Different communities across the country are struggling to curb the opioid epidemic.
- According to a study by researchers affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s a fatal opioid overdose every 20 minutes.
- Approximately 2 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder in 2018.
- The number of young adults using heroin has increased twofold in the last decade.
- Around 9 in every 10 people who abuse heroin also use another drug.
All of these figures translate to an opioid crisis in the United States and a need for an effective evidence-based treatment approach. MAT has been proven to help with detoxification, reducing overdoses, and managing withdrawal symptoms.
Although alcohol consumption is often seen as a harmless social activity, it can quickly become problematic—especially when it’s used for self-medication as a coping mechanism for mental health issues. Users easily build a tolerance to alcohol, which results in a need for more of the substance to achieve the same pleasurable feelings.
Just like opioids, alcohol creates functional and structural changes in the brain that lead to a loss of self-control and consequently addiction. Any attempts to reduce or put a stop to the harmful habit may result in intense withdrawal symptoms.
Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that over 85% of American adults have tried alcohol at one point in their lives. Out of this demographic, 14.1 million suffer from an Alcohol Use Disorder. Such is the prevalence of alcoholism in the U.S. that it’s the third leading preventable cause of death, killing around 95,000 people annually.
Medication Assisted Treatment can help reduce the cravings for alcohol while easing the intense withdrawal symptoms to help patients lead a life free from alcoholism. This treatment approach is also effective at reducing the risk of relapse.
How Does MAT Work?
At it’s most basic level, MAT works by using agonist or antagonist medications to:
- Help block the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol
- Normalize body functions
- Manage withdrawal symptoms
- Relieve psychological cravings
Physician-prescribed medications work by normalizing the brain chemistry to help reduce dependence to addictive drugs like opioids are alcohol.
For example, a prescribed medication such as buprenorphine binds to the same brain receptors as stronger and more dangerous opioids like heroin, thereby reducing a patient’s craving for the highly addictive illicit drug heroin.
Other drugs may even block the receptors and prevent the opioids from binding. The types of medications used for MAT therapy depend on each person’s specific circumstances and history of drug use. This is one of the reasons why it’s advisable to seek treatment in a rehabilitation center that offers personalized and client-focused care.
How Effective is Medication Assisted Treatment?
The next question that follows “What is Medication Assisted Treatment?” and “How does MAT work?” is “How effective is the treatment?” As someone struggling with addiction (or as someone concerned for a loved one), it’s only logical that you want the best care possible from your chosen rehab center.
At Oro House, we provide the best care possible by leveraging proven and effective treatment modalities. Our core purpose is your long-lasting recovery, which involves reinforcing your self-control, reducing the painful symptoms of withdrawal during detox, and creating a network of support.
Our use of Medication Assisted Treatment is based on scientific and experiential evidence about its effectiveness. Sure, prescribing medication to someone struggling with chemical dependence and a substance use disorder may seem odd, but there are many circumstances when it plays a key part in recovery.
When used under the supervision of qualified clinical experts, MAT can save lives! Here are some statistics and studies highlighting the efficacy of the approach:
- According to guidelines by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), a combination of FDA-approved medication and psychosocial therapy offers one of the most effective interventions for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
- A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews notes that MAT, decreases opioid use and retains patients in treatment more effectively than non-drug approaches.
- In a decade-long study of opioid overdose deaths in Baltimore, a team of researchers concluded that “Increased access to opioid agonist treatment was associated with a reduction in heroin overdose deaths.”
- Researchers affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighting the safety and efficacy of MAT for opiate addiction treatment.
- The American Medical Association (AMA) champions the use of effective alternative addiction treatment methods such as Medication Assisted Treatment considering the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.
- A large study of over 1,000 volunteers showed that people with and addiction to alcohol who received medication assisted treatment showed a substantial reduction in drinking, especially when combined with behavioral therapy.
The bravest thing anyone can ever do is reach out and ask for help.
We know how difficult this can be. We want this part of your journey to be as painless as possible.
Myths About Medication Assisted Treatment Debunked
Despite a growing body of evidence and research highlighting the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment for opioid and alcohol addiction, some people are still critical of the method. This is sometimes based on a few misconception aboutthis form of treatment therapy.
Some of the most common Medication Assisted Treatment Myths include:
- Medication Assisted Treatment Trades One Addictive Drug for Another
One of the most widely-cited misconceptions is that Medication Assisted Treatment merely trades one addictive substance for another. Although some of the drugs such as buprenorphine (Suboxone) carry a slight risk of abuse, it can be the very thing that helps keep a patient in recovery.
Medication assisted treatment bridges the behavioral and biological components of alcohol and opiate addiction. It’s a life-saving intervention that may facilitate sustained recovery with the goal of removing dependence to more dangerous and addictive drugs.
- The Benefits of MAT are Short Term
Medication assisted treatment has both short-term and long-term applications. As a short-term solution, it helps patients get through the earlier stages of detoxification. And like any other successful rehabilitation method, MAT may be used as a long-term therapy to reduce the risk of relapse and keep cravings under control.
- The Risk of Overdose Increases When MAT is Used
On the contrary, certain drugs used for MAT may help prevent overdoses from occurring. Most of the medications used for this treatment method are less potent than their addictive counterparts with a significantly lower risk of abuse, overdose, and dependency, especially under the close supervision of medical professionals.
- Medication Assisted Treatment Hinders a Patient’s Recovery Process
Helping patients deal with the negative effects of addiction and withdrawal is a key part of a successful recovery journey, and this where MAT medications come in. Research shows that Medication Assisted Treatment improves a patient’s ability to handle stress and cravings, level of functioning, and their overall quality of life.
MAT ultimately bolsters recovery and reduces the risk of mortality, which is why every major medical association recommends using is for successfully overcoming the opioid epeidemic.
These myths and misconceptions can hinder the life-saving efforts of Medication Assisted Treatment. Therefore, it is important to put a stop to the stigma surrounding the use of MAT in order to effectively combat the ongoing opioid crisis.
What Medications are Prescribed in MAT?
There are several medications that are approved opioid and alcohol addiction treatment. They generally relieve psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with addictive substances.
Here are some of the prescription medications that have shown to be successful:
Opioid Use Disorder Medications
- Methadone: Methadone is a highly-regulated drug used in MAT. As a full agonist, Methadone carries a risk of overdose and abuse—which is why it’s only available in methadone clinics and administered under strict supervision. The drug blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and reduces painful symptoms by combining with the same brain receptors to produce the desired effect.
- Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv): Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved partial agonist—meaning it doesn’t bind fully to the brain’s opioid receptors. The drug decreases cravings and helps alleviate physical symptoms. Suboxone comprises a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The naloxone helps fight the addiction by counteracting with opioids leading to adverse results in the abuser. Buprenorphine is used by treatment centers instead of methadone.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol): This medication is an antagonist that prevents overdosing, alleviates symptoms of withdrawal, and wards off cravings. It’s administered orally, injected, or as an implant.
- Sublocade: Sublocade is a form of buprenorphine that is administered once a month via an injection.
- Probuphine: This is administered by an implant that delivers a continuous dose of the drug for approximately 6 months.
Alcohol Use Disorder Medications
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone for alcohol addiction is taken orally, as a patch, or a subcutaneous injection. It helps reduce cravings associated with alcohol addiction.
- Antabuse (Disulfiram): Antabuse is one of the first drugs approved for Medication Assisted Treatment use to combat alcohol addiction. It works by triggering chest pain, vomiting, and nausea, among other uncomfortable reactions when the patient consumes alcohol.
- Neurontin (Gabapentin): This medication is primarily administered to help manage convulsions and seizures sometimes associated with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It may also reduce the intensity of cravings while mitigating other symptoms such as dysphoria and insomnia.
- Topamax: This medication reduces cravings for alcohol and treats seizures that may occur following alcohol withdrawal.
- Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate helps relieves cravings, especially after the detoxification step of alcohol addiction treatment.
Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment
When used correctly, MAT is a highly effective and safe way to overcome opioid and alcohol dependence and improve a patient’s quality of life. The benefits of using Medication Assisted Treatment include:
- Reduce the risk of relapse, hence facilitating long-lasting recovery
- Retain patients on a treatment path
- Eliminate or reduce cravings for addictive substances, especially during detox
- Reduce the intensity and frequency of withdrawal symptoms to make recovery more comfortable
Our treatment approach focuses on the individual’s unique needs, but also fosters a supportive environment of family, friends, and compassionate staff. The idea is to help our clients achieve lifelong recovery.
This improves a client’s ability to recover while lowering the incidence of relapse, notably when used together with other behavioral therapies. For this reason, we combine the use of medications when necessary, with behavioral evidence-based therapies that are tailored to the needs of each client–including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Motivational Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Psychodrama and Seeking Safety Therapy
- Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy
- Person-Centered Therapy
- Somatic Experiencing
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Meditation and Mindfulness
- Existential Therapy
- Relapse Prevention Therapy
In addition to our compassionate, loving, and non-judgmental rehabilitation philosophy, we help our clients achieve sustainable long-term recovery in a luxury environment.