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What Is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Medication Assisted Treatment Overview

Medication Assisted Treatment

Long-term maintenance therapy, which includes FDA-approved medication and some counseling or behavioral therapy, can increase your chances of beating addiction. This is called medication-assisted therapy or “MAT” and helps you to maintain recovery after dealing with addictions.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), describes MAT that uses medications in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders (SUD).

The use of MAT can be very beneficial for those suffering from co-occurring disorders, opioid addiction, or alcohol addiction. This treatment greatly reduces the chance of a relapse, and can lead to a longer recovery.

The ultimate goal of medication assisted treatment is for you to recover fully and live an independent, drug-free life.


Medications used during MAT  

The U.S Food and Drug Administration has approved several medications for the treatment of alcohol and opioid addictions during MAT programs. These medications can be used to treat withdrawal symptoms as well as psychological cravings.

For the treatment of opioid dependence, buprenorphine and methadone have been approved by the FDA. Antabuse (Disulfiram), Campral (acamprosate), and Antabuse (Naltrexone) are all approved for the treatment of alcohol addiction.

Patients can benefit from the many medications prescribed by MAT in many ways including the following:

  • You can work towards normalizing brain chemistry  
  • Eliminating the euphoric effects associated with opioids and alcohol  
  • Reduce your cravings 
  • You can normalize your body’s activity without experiencing severe side effects from the drug you are using  


Other elements of MAT  

Other than medication, MAT also includes several other elements such as:

  • Pharmacological counseling  
  • Coordination/integration of SUD treatment and other medical or psychological therapies  
  • Interventions and psychosocial resources  
  • Educational interventions that are community-based  


MAT to treat Opioid Use Disorders (OUD)  

The American Psychiatric Association defines OUD to be a lifelong chronic disorder that can lead to disability, relapses and even death. More than 72,000 Americans were killed by drug overdoses in 2017, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs. The nation declared opioid use disorder a national health emergency in 2017.

Opioid dependence can lead to withdrawal syndrome, which is the most common reason for relapses. The effectiveness of treatment can be significantly increased if medications are used during treatment.

To remain opioid-free for life, you will need to take long-term medication as well as counseling/talk therapy programs. Three main drugs used in medication assisted treatment for OUD are:

Methadone: Methadone activates the same brain areas as the drug that you are using without creating a high. This medication is used during withdrawal to treat symptoms.

The following symptoms can be relieved by MAT:

  •  Sweating  
  •  Chills  
  •  Irritability  
  •  Anxiety  
  •  Cramps  
  •  Insomnia  
  •  Diarrhea  
  •  Nausea  
  •  Headaches  
  •  Vomiting  

Buprenorphine: This medication works on the same receptors that opioids, but not as strongly. This medication reduces cravings in patients who are recovering from addiction.

Naltrexone: This medication blocks the effects of opioids. This drug prevents patients from getting high again if they are using opioids.


MAT to treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)  

AUD management can also be managed with MAT. The National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism has defined AUD to be a medical condition that impairs one’s ability to control or stop alcohol abuse despite adverse occupational, social or health consequences.

The most commonly used medications in medication assisted treatment programs to treat AUD are disulfiram, Naltrexone and acamprosate. However, these medications do not cure alcoholism. These medications can help you avoid relapses and improve your long-term recovery. These medications can help you manage AUD in these ways:

Disulfiram: This medication can be used to treat chronic alcoholism. This medication is especially useful for those who have completed an alcohol detox program , or are still in the early stages of abstinence.

Naltrexone: Similar OUD treatment but without the euphoric effects or sensations of alcohol addiction, naltrexone blocks the euphoric feelings and sensations. It allows patients suffering from alcohol addiction to gradually lower their drinking levels in order to stay sober or avoid relapses.

Acamprosate – acamprosate is a medication that is administered to patients who have stopped drinking alcohol. It normalizes alcohol-related brain changes and reduces some of the emotional and physical discomfort that can be caused by post-acute withdrawal syndrome.


MAT to treat Mental Health

Over 7.7 million Americans are affected by mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. These diseases are often severe, frequent, and often recurrent. However, they generally go untreated. Changes in thinking, mood, or behavior are all signs of mental health disorders. These disorders can impact our relationships with others and the choices that we make in our lives. Co-occurring disorder refers to the coexistence of mental and substance abuse disorders. Co-occurring disorder is when both mental and substance abuse are addressed simultaneously.

Relapses can be almost certain if the underlying causes of addiction, such as mental illness, are not treated properly. Understanding the importance of treating mental illness effectively is key to understanding the effectiveness and efficacy of medication in addiction treatment. Psychotherapy, similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective way to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. However, medication can be used to enhance mental health treatment in the same way that drugs are used in addiction treatment. Combining both of these conditions with medication assisted treatment and therapy has been proven to be effective.


Effectiveness in Medication-Assisted Treatment  

MAT has been proven to be an effective and beneficial treatment option for patients suffering from SUD. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) considers medication-assisted therapy an evidence-based treatment. This method is clinically proven to be more effective than other traditional treatment methods. If MAT is correctly used, it can increase the likelihood of long-term healing.

In addition to reducing the chance of a relapse in some cases, MAT programs can help prevent infections such as HIV or reduce overdose deaths. Despite its promise, this therapy is often underutilized. It is estimated that less than 1,000,000 of the 2.5 million Americans with OUD used MAT in their treatment.

Other benefits of MAT include:

  •  Patient survival rates are improved  
  •  Retention of treatment is higher  
  •  Patients are more likely to be able to find and keep employment.  
  •  People with SUDs have a decreased illicit opiate and other criminal activity.  
  •  Women who are pregnant with SUDs have better birth outcomes  


Can MAT Substitute for One Addiction?  

This is a common misconception regarding MAT. This evidence-based treatment relieves emotional cravings as well as withdrawal symptoms which can cause chemical imbalances in your body. This treatment method allows for a controlled and healthy intake of medication to help overcome addictions.

There is very little chance of developing an addiction to the medication used during MAT therapy if treatment is followed properly. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment! 


Whom should you consult for medication-assisted treatment?  

Patients who want to overcome substance abuse disorder or mental disorders must seek help from a rehab center or a healthcare provider.

A physician who has obtained a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after taking specified training in using these drugs can prescribe you Buprenorphine-containing medications, such as Suboxone. Naltrexone can be prescribed by any licensed physician and the treatment can be done in a hospital, at a primary care physician’s office, or in residential rehab centers.

Overall, MAT is a good choice for treating OUD, AUD and mental health disorders as well as co-occurring disorders.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or substance abuse, please contact us today. We are here to help you along the way, and throughout your road to recovery. Keys To Tranquility serves the Corona, CA area. Contact their office today, or if you are in another part of the US, you can reach out to the following MAT offices:

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