We know that undoubtedly, the biggest challenge you might ever face in your life is deciding to get help for substance abuse.
It’s hard enough to admit not just to other people but to yourself that you can’t control your substance use.
It makes sense that when you are ready to get help, you’d want to be as comfortable as possible with the highest chance of success; that’s where Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) comes into play.
There is also a sense of fear and apprehension about rehab. For example, what will life look like on the other side after recovery?
We’re big supporters of anything that will help make this challenging time easier for you.
With that in mind, medication-assisted treatment (medication-assisted therapy) combines pharmaceutical medicines with other methods like talk therapy.
It can help you through some of the more complex elements of your physical dependence on substances, like withdrawal.
It can be part of a comprehensive program, and there is growing evidence that medication-assisted treatment or MAT is effective.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment is a way to treat a substance use disorder to help maintain long-term recovery and used to prevent overdose.
We know that you’re much more than your drug or alcohol use, and for your efforts to be practical, we must take that into account.
Most commonly, medical professionals use MAT to treat opioid addiction. It can also be part of a plan for alcohol addiction.
So, you might be wondering how exactly MAT is helpful in addiction recovery.
- When you use opioids, it can change the chemistry of your brain over time. Those changes lead to addiction and dependence.
- Addiction is a chronic disease where you compulsively keep using a substance, even though you know there are negative consequences.
- If you’re physically dependent on a substance, you have to keep using it to feel “normal” and avoid discomfort.
- Withdrawal symptoms can be severe for some people, and the uncomfortable symptoms and cravings can be a big reason for relapse.
This therapy’s primary way to help you is by reducing your cravings and minimizing discomfort, and keeping you safe from the dangerous effects of detoxing.
Along with the medication, MAT should include behavioral therapy and counseling. This helps you get to the root of your addiction and learn how to make positive changes in your life in other ways.
You can learn coping skills as the medicines used as part of MAT help give you more of a sense of physical and psychological stability.
Types of Medication Assisted Therapy
Medications used to help alcohol abuse include:
- Acamprosate: This medication can help you avoid alcohol if you’re in recovery, but it doesn’t prevent withdrawal symptoms. You usually have to be abstinent from alcohol for at least five days before you can use acamprosate.
- Disulfiram: This Medication is suitable if you’ve already gone through detox. If you take this medication and then have even a tiny amount of alcohol, you might experience consequences.
- Naltrexone: This medication keeps you from feeling intoxicated if you use alcohol. It can help you stay motivated in recovery, and it’s helpful to avoid a relapse.
Medications that are used in opioid treatment programs include:
- Buprenorphine: This is a medicine that can reduce cravings for opioids.
- Methadone: As one of the longest available treatments for opioid use disorder, methadone can reduce drug cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. It can also block the effects of other opioids.
- Naltrexone: Also used for opioid dependence, naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids.
Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?
The goal here isn’t to “cure” you of your addiction to drugs or alcohol. Managing your expectations is essential.
While medication alone is not considered a practical option for addiction, pharmaceuticals are often combined with behavioral therapy for a “Whole-Patient” approach.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, MAT has been shown to reduce the need for inpatient detox services for people with opioid use disorders and has been shown to be clinically effective.
One report in The New England Journal of Medicine found a 50% decrease in fatal overdoses from heroin with increased availability of buprenorphine and methadone.
That same report found MAT helped increase the number of patients who stay in treatment.
Authorities also found it helped reduce the risk of contracting drug-related infectious diseases; it reduced criminal behaviors, and MAT helped improve social function.
Are You Sober If You’re Using MAT?
One of the concerns we often hear from people is that they worry they aren’t sober if they’re using drugs to stop using other drugs.
The reality is that sobriety looks different for every person who struggles with a substance use disorder.
It’s not “trading one substance for another,” which we hear a lot too.
When you have a chronic disease, you take medications and often have to follow other lifestyle changes.
The same applies to medicines used in addiction treatment.
If you find something that works for you, and your medical team thinks it’s best for your needs, that’s ultimately the most important thing.
Medication-Assisted Treatment: an Evidence-Based Approach
Medication-assisted treatment offers an evidence-based approach that is a blend of medications and behavioral therapy to treat those with substance use disorders (SUDs). MAT is currently thought to be the gold standard as a treatment for opioid addiction.
The primary medications used in MAT are methadone or buprenorphine. Recently a new medication, extended-release naltrexone has received approval for treating those with an opioid use disorder. Then, of course, there is naloxone. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, is well on its way to playing a vital role in local efforts to battle the increasing levels of opioid overdose and the high number of deaths.
In a report issued by Christina Andrews, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina, there are approximately 2.5 to 3 million people in the United States living with an opioid use disorder. When you look at numbers this high and the research done, it is easy to see that there are simply not enough people receiving medication-assisted treatment.
Long-Term Success of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
There is a big misconception about 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 is 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 as 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.
On the same note, MAT is becoming more well-known in the simple fact that this type of treatment helps in relapse prevention. 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.
How Do I Afford MAT?
The State of California funds many low-cost addiction treatment centers. To help treat inmates experiencing addiction withdrawal, the Los Angeles Department of Health Services implemented a program to provide access to MAT in all area jails; funding comes from the state’s Department of Health Care Services.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that most insurers provide coverage for addiction treatment, while the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) requires that patients have comparable coverage for behavioral health, including addiction treatment, that they do for their basic coverage.
Start MAT Treatment Today
Every person is unique, and there is no “one size fits all” approach to addiction treatment.
Personalized programs are the best way to work toward a successful long-term recovery.
This may include medication, behavioral health treatment, and whatever else your needs require.
The medical team at Opus Health has helped hundreds of people through Medication-Assisted Treatment, detox, and every step of the recovery process.