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What Is A Medication Assisted Treatment For Drug Addiction?

While we have had remarkable success in drug addiction treatment in recent years, we can’t ignore the fact that there have been some drawbacks. This includes an uptick in fatal drug overdoses especially connected to opioid use. As a result, medication assisted treatment (MAT) has been seen as a solution to this crisis.

Here at Findlay Recovery Center in Ohio, we offer a variety of drug and alcohol treatment programs. We have many clients who request to be put on MAT while others are completely unaware of its existence. So what exactly is medication-assisted treatment and who can benefit from it?

Medication Assisted Treatment Explained

Medication-Assisted Treatment is an umbrella term for the use of specific medication to treat certain addictions most commonly alcohol use disorder and opioid addiction. MAT is most commonly used in medical detox, but it is equally effective at all levels of drug addiction treatment including outpatient treatment. It is most effective when counseling therapy practices such as individual or group therapy are used in combination with the medication during treatment.

The idea behind MAT is to gradually taper off drug use or to wean people slowly from dependency on drugs and to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Many people face intense withdrawal symptoms when they quit using drugs. These can be uncomfortable, painful, and even dangerous leading many to abandon the recovery effort and to go back to using. To prevent this, certain medicines are prescribed and used under medical supervision. These medicines have to have the FDA stamp of approval and are effective at curbing cravings and promoting abstinence.

Medication Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

Here are some of the common medications used to treat addictions.

  • For alcohol use disorder – Naltrexone, Disulfiram, and Acamprosate
  • Opioid use disorder – Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naltrexone are especially effective for those addicted to heroin, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone.
  • For opioid overdose prevention  –  Naloxone is used because it reverses the toxic effects of an overdose.
  • Tobacco use – Bupropion and Varenicline

It should be emphasized that these medications don’t cure addiction. They simply block the pleasurable effects of the alcohol or opioids in a person’s system and curb cravings.

Concerns about MAT

As may be expected, there are concerns about using medication to treat addiction. There are those who feel that this is just replacing one addiction with another. Others are concerned about the effects these medications have on individuals, especially those that are recommended for long-term use or even for a lifetime.

To clear this up, it is important to understand that medication used in medication-assisted treatment is meant to relieve withdrawal symptoms as well as the psychological cravings that cause an imbalance in the body. This way, addicts in recovery have a chance to concentrate on other aspects of the addiction treatment program as well as on rebuilding their lives. MAT has been especially useful in increasing patient retention in addiction treatment programs.

When administered in the proper dose and used responsibly, MAT medication can be safely used for months or years with no adverse effects on an individual’s physical or mental abilities.

Who Can Treat Using MAT?

Because medication-assisted treatment requires administering strong medication, physicians need to undergo training and certification. Oral or injectable Naltrexone is the only MAT medication that can be prescribed by any licensed physician.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) is the body responsible for ensuring that opioid treatment programs conform to federal regulations.  If you need methadone, for instance, you can only have it prescribed and dispensed from a SAMHSA-Certified Opioid Treatment Program.

Medications that contain Buprenorphine can only be prescribed by physicians who have undergone specific training on how to use these medicines and obtained waivers from the DEA.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of MAT

Although medication-assisted treatment provides a safe and controlled level of medication to assist addicts in overcoming substance use, it has its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Reduced rates of opioid use as many of those addicted to opioids come to realize how beneficial MAT is.
  • Increased retention in addiction treatment programs. Since MAT curbs withdrawal symptoms and cravings, those in recovery can concentrate on getting better and other aspects of their treatment programs without relapse.
  • MAT has led to fewer opioid overdose deaths. Those who relapse often face a greater risk of overdose as their bodies have developed less tolerance for the drugs. This means that taking the dose they were used to before can easily lead to death.
  • MAT has also been beneficial in increasing patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment. Previously, those in recovery found it hard to remain employed as withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings affected their concentration.
  • Medication-assisted treatment has helped improve outcomes for expectant mothers who were struggling with addiction. Thanks to MAT, such women can give birth to healthy babies as the risk for relapse is greatly reduced.

Cons

  • Since MAT involves the use of strong medication, there is the potential for misuse and abuse, especially when it comes to buprenorphine and methadone. To prevent this, MAT medication is often prescribed as part of ongoing treatment at a rehab center, where it can be used under medical supervision.
  • Some of the medication such as Methadone needs to be given daily. This discourages some people from getting started on it.
  • Medication-assisted treatment is still a new concept and is yet to be widely accepted. This means that it can be hard to find MAT programs in some areas.
  • The medication used in MAT can be quite expensive and this puts some people off, especially if they don’t have health insurance to cover the cost.

We Can Help

At the Findlay Recovery Center in Ohio, emphasis is placed on helping those struggling with addiction to achieve affordable treatment. All our addiction treatment programs are evidence-based and are tailored to meet individual recovery goals.

Contact us today for more information on medication-assisted treatment or any of our treatment programs. We’ll be happy to help you.

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