Health Blog

Unpacking Medication – Assisted Treatment

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Addiction sets your life back a great deal. If you get a chance to begin again, don’t miss it. Sadly, most people do not even get the chance to start over and they end up wasting all their years on alcohol or other drugs. The best decision you can make for yourself is to start a clean slate. It is not easy, there will be withdrawals and sometimes lapses, but once your mind is made up you can get over addiction.

There are a number of ways in which you can choose to make a clean start. Some people choose to walk into a drug rehab center, some opt to heal through a peer group, others choose to walk with a therapist that can assist them, while others simply go for medication assisted treatment to deal with effects of addiction and withdraw. The first step is to identify the root cause of your problem. It will help determine the best recovery plan. The second step is to know the extent of damage or dependence. If you are not able to make these decisions for yourself, talk to a loved one or a therapist, and they can assist you in getting help.

If you are deep into addiction or dependent on a substance, it would be best if you considered a medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

What is a medication- assisted treatment?

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses medication in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to give a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research has shown that a combination of medication and therapy can effectively remedy these disorders, and for some individuals struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery.

How does a MAT program work?

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding how MAT works. A common one is that this treatment replaces one drug for another. On the contrary, these are medications used to combat withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that have led to chemical imbalances in the body.

Programs under MAT are designed to offer a safe and controlled level of medication to get over the habit of an abused opioid. Research has shown that when these medications are provided in the right dosage, they do not have any adverse effect on an individual’s intelligence, mental capacity, physical ability, or employability.

MAT is often used in treating addiction to opioids such as heroin and opiates (prescription drugs for relieving pain). MAT medication is meant to regulate brain chemistry, block the ecstatic effects of opioids and alcohol, get rid of physiological cravings, and stabilize body processes without the undesirable effects of the abused drug.

Medications used in MAT are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved. They can only be dispensed through a SAMHA certified OTP. MAT programs are also clinically regulated and customized to meet the needs of each specific client.

What medications are used under MAT?

The kind of medication to be used for this treatment depends on the substance addiction or dependency of the client such as opioid dependency, alcohol use disorder, and opioid overdose. Opioid dependency is treated using medications such as Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone. Generally, this category of drugs is used to treat short-acting opioids such as morphine, heroin, and codeine, in addition to semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Alcohol use disorder is treated using medications such as Disulfiram, Acamprosate, and Naltrexone. Disulfiram is used to treat chronic alcoholism. It works best for people who have previously undergone detoxification or are in the early stage of abstinence. Acamprosate is used for people in recovery who have already quit taking alcohol and want to shun drinking. It prevents people from taking alcohol, but it does not check withdrawal symptoms after taking alcohol.

Naltrexone is used to treat alcohol dependency. Naltrexone interferes with the euphoric effects of taking alcohol and feelings of heavy drinking. This enables people dealing with alcohol addiction to cut down their drinking behaviors such that they stay motivated to adhere to treatment, avoid relapses, and take medications. Naloxone on the other hand is an injectable drug used in preventing opioid overdose.

Counseling and behavioral therapies

MAT is always a combination of medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy. The federal law requires that MAT patients be taken through counseling that includes different forms of behavioral therapy. Medical, occupational, educational, and other forms of assessment and treatment services are offered through MAT. This also comes with evidence-based programs to offer high quality treatment from research.

A behavioral approach is important because it helps patients achieve a change in behavior, thoughts, emotions, and how they process information. Look for a facility with specialized psychotherapists to help with this process. MAT insists on a combination of different approaches because there is no one single treatment that is effective on its own.

Why should I choose MAT over other recovery plans?

Some of the documented benefits of medication-assisted program according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHA are:

  • Higher patient survival rates
  • Better retention in treatment
  • Bringing down illegal opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increased patients’ capacity to gain and keep employment
  • Improved birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are expecting

What happens after a MAT program?

Medications used in MAT are safe to use for a long period of time. You can continue use after a week, a month, or even a year. It is up to your doctor to advise you when to discontinue use depending on your case and severity of symptoms. Remember this area of opioid and alcohol addiction is highly regulated by federal legislation. Please research if the facility you plan on going to is compliant.

MAT is a fairly easy treatment plan to adhere to. Most people carry out an outpatient treatment and greatly benefit from the recovery plan with good results in retention and long-term recovery. If you need more information on this treatment including payment, how it works, and duration, you can check out Clean Slate Greenfield MA for details.