Addiction is a devastating disease that has often been stigmatized. However, thankfully, attention is now being focused on turning to ways of helping those struggling get better. The conventionally accepted methods of treatment include counseling and therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. One upcoming method of treating addiction that has been generating some debate is medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
What Exactly Is Medication Assisted Treatment?
MAT refers to using certain approved medications to treat substance use disorder. These medications are used alongside the traditional counseling and behavioral therapies employed in addiction treatment centers.
Anyone who has struggled with substance use disorder will tell you that recovery isn’t an easy process. It takes time for the body to get used to living without the drug and for the dependency to wear off. In the meantime, the individual faces withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite tough to deal with and depending on the drug of choice, can even be life-threatening. Cravings are equally distracting and if serious enough, can tempt even strong-willed addicts in recovery to start using again. That’s why MAT is such a useful and helpful method of addiction treatment.
This form of addiction treatment came into the light when the American Medical Association called for policymakers to assist those battling opioid addiction by giving them medication that would help relieve their withdrawal symptoms while easing their cravings. Further research expanded the list of medications to include those that can help with alcohol addiction as well.
One great benefit of MAT is that it frees the patient from the devastating effects of withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings as they start the recovery process. This allows them to properly concentrate on addiction treatment programs or start rebuilding their lives by seeking employment when clean and sober.
Medications used in Medication Assisted Treatment
The most common medications approved for use in MAT include:
- Methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine for opioid dependency. These are especially effective in treating addiction to codeine and heroin as well as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
- Disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are commonly used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.
- Naloxone is effective in preventing opioid overdose. It works by reversing the toxic effect of opioids in the system and its use is approved by the World Health Organization.
To be effective, these medications have to be prescribed and used responsibly. They are prescribed on an individual basis and are not used as a blanket treatment of any addiction. It is important to note that these medications don’t cure the addiction but only make withdrawal symptoms and cravings more manageable.
How Long Do Individuals Have to Use MAT?
The length of time recovering addicts have to use MAT depends on their individual situation. However, research has shown that MAT medications are safe to use for months and years at a time and even for a lifetime if needed. The important thing is to have a doctor assess you before you get started on MAT. This also applies if you’re planning to stop taking the medications or if you wish to have the dosage adjusted or changed for any reason.
Not all addiction treatment doctors are licensed to administer the different MAT medications. For instance, drugs that contain buprenorphine can only be prescribed by physicians who have successfully undergone training in the use of these drugs and obtained a waiver from the DEA. Additionally, methadone for treating an opioid addiction can only be prescribed and dispensed through Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) that have been certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Any licensed physician can prescribe and administer both the oral and injectable forms of Naltrexone.
Challenges Faced in Adopting Medication Assisted Treatment
Despite the obvious benefits of medication-assisted treatment, it still faces some challenges including:
- Slow adoption due to misconceptions about MAT medications being used to replace one addiction with another. However, used at the proper dose and under medical supervision, these medications have no adverse effects on an individual’s mental or physical capacity. They don’t create dependency but work by relieving withdrawal symptoms and suppressing cravings while simultaneously providing a safe, controlled way of overcoming addiction.
- Those using MAT face discrimination – It has been reported that some of those undergoing MAT have faced stigmatization and discrimination from others in recovery who don’t support the use of medication to combat addiction. The reasoning of those in this group is that those on MAT have only traded one addiction for another and are not fully recovered as long as they are on the program.
- Difficulty in finding MAT programs – MAT programs are still not widely available in the country thanks to misconceptions, lack of adequate training among physicians, and negative opinions toward the program, even from those in healthcare. This makes it challenging for patients who want MAT to access these programs and limiting their recovery prospects.
- Difficulties in adhering to MAT schedules – Those who are enrolled in MAT programs may find it hard to adhere to some of the dosing schedules. For instance, methadone needs to be taken daily and this may deter a lot of those willing to take it.
Financial constraints – another drawback when it comes to medication-assisted treatment is the cost of the medications. For instance, naltrexone costs about $1,176.50 per month while methadone costs about $126 per week. This can be quite expensive, putting these medications out of reach of those who most need them, especially if they don’t have medical insurance that covers these costs.
Speak to Us Today
At the Findlay Recovery Center in Ohio, we pride ourselves on providing top-notch evidence-based addiction treatment programs. We have helped clients get started on medication-assisted treatment and have seen the benefits it brings.
Get in touch with us today if you’d like to know more about MAT or are interested in being part of such a program. We’ll also be happy to discuss our detoxification program, alcohol addiction treatment program, or our drug treatment program with you.