Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
When it comes to helping individuals recover from opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment is one of the best and safest options available. And with the ongoing opioid epidemic continuing to ravage lives across the country (an estimated 130 people die every day from drug-related overdoses), help is more urgent than ever.
Affordable and accessible medication assisted treatment at Methadone clinics continues to be an urgent, necessary, and lifesaving part of communities throughout the U.S. that are struggling with the effects of painkillers and opioids. Opioids are highly addictive substances and include heroin, as well as prescription medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and oxymorphone, as well as pharmaceutical Fentanyl.
What Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Medication assisted treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a holistic approach to the treatment of substance abuse disorders.”
FDA-approved medications include Methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol. These medications ease the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and curb drug cravings.
In addition to the medication program, patients can take part in individual and family counseling services, 12-step meetings, and a wide array of health services to help them get back on their feet and focus on sobriety.
Types of Medications Used in Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
The FDA-approved medications are prescribed and distributed by nurses who understand the complexity of addiction.
Here’s how these particular medications work for patients:
Methadone is perhaps the most well-known and highly-regulated medication used during treatment for opioid addiction, Methadone is a full agonist. This means it combines with receptors in the brain and nervous system to produce a desired effect.
This combination lessens the painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal and blocks the euphoric effects of an opiate drug. When Methadone is administered properly during medication assisted treatment, the patient feels normal, does not physically crave opiates and does not become lethargic. Methadone is administered once per day via a liquid solution.
Methadone dosages need to be slowly built up over time to avoid the risk of overdosing. Methadone can be dangerous when abused.
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While Methadone is a full agonist, the FDA-approved Suboxone (buprenorphine) is a partial agonist that is used during medication assisted treatment. This means it does not bind fully to opioid receptors like Methadone.
Comprised of buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone is effective for treating opioid withdrawal as it alleviates the physical symptoms, as well as decreases cravings for continued opioid use. If an individual attempts to abuse opioids—such as heroin and prescription painkillers—while taking Suboxone, that person will experience adverse results because naloxone counteracts the effects that opioids have on the brain.
This FDA-approved injectable medication is an antagonist designed to avert cravings for an extended amount of time. Administered only once each month during a medication assisted treatment program, this naltrexone-based medication wards off opioid cravings, alleviates physical symptoms of withdrawal, and prevents overdose from occurring. Vivitrol requires the user to abstain from any opiate for 14 days before the first injection.
How Effective is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction?
While addiction affects everyone differently, medication assisted treatment has proven to be an effective method in combating the disease throughout the recovery process.
In fact, research shows that medication assisted treatment helps a patient adhere to the recovery process and reduces opioid abuse compared with other non-medicated approaches.
This is due, in part, to how the medications used in medication assisted treatment impact the opioid receptors in the brain. These medications not only lessen opioid cravings, but they help patients with the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that occur during withdrawal.
Medication assisted treatment helps alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms including:
- Joint pain
Another aspect of what makes medication assisted treatment so effective is the support and education provided by the professionals at outpatient clinics. Recovery Centers of America prides itself on a high-quality and holistic approach to care that includes medication maintenance programs, as well as detoxification, medical examinations and HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and urinalysis testing.
Recovery Centers of America also provides individual and group substance abuse counseling, family counseling, on-site 12-step meetings, and community-based resources for vocational and educational assistance.
Medication assisted treatment programs focus on the individual’s needs, but they also create a foundation and system of support from staff, peers, friends, and family to help patients achieve their lifelong goals of recovery.
Myths Surrounding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Opioid Addiction
Despite the ongoing evidence that medication assisted treatment is an effective method in treating opioid addiction, there are still stigmas and myths from policymakers and the public surrounding the treatment.
People struggling with opioid addiction may not know medication -assisted treatment is available to them, they may feel shamed by their addiction, or they may be given false information about what medication-assisted treatment actually does. These harmful myths and stigmas surrounding medication-assisted treatment can be detrimental and hinder life-saving efforts.
Stopping the stigma surrounding medication-assisted treatment and educating the public is a key step in providing treatment and combating the opioid epidemic.
Myth: MAT just trades one addiction for another
One of the biggest misconceptions about medication-assisted treatment is that it simply trades one for another (i.e. the medications provided at Methadone clinics). While abusing Methadone can become a serious and life-threatening issue, when it is administered and maintained through the proper channels, Methadone and other medications used during medication-assisted treatment can be the very thing that stabilizes a patient and helps keep them in recovery.
By alleviating the physical and mental pain that is often associated with opioid withdrawal, medication assisted treatment helps patients feel healthy and ready to work towards their goals of sobriety.
Myth: MAT is only for the short term
It’s also important to remember that medication assisted treatment isn’t a “quick fix.” Like any successful recovery and rehabilitation, medication assisted treatment may be a lifelong process that requires both the ongoing efforts of trained medical staff and a patient who wishes to continue in their sobriety.
Myth: MAT will disrupt the recovery process
Medication assisted treatment doesn’t “disrupt” the recovery process—for many, it is a vital step in the recovery process.
Myth: MAT is not covered by most insurance plans
Recovery Centers of America provides affordable care that is covered by Medicaid and most insurance plans.
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