MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is delivered in combination with psychotherapies and counseling to provide a holistic approach to treating substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment doesn’t substitute one addiction for another, and the medications used are all approved by the FDA.
All addiction treatment can make some use of medication-assisted treatment, but it’s especially effective for treating opioid use disorder. From dependence on prescription painkillers to heroin addiction, all opioid-based addictions can be treated using MAT, as we’ll highlight today. Research shows that evidence-based medication-assisted treatment, when delivered in tandem with the appropriate behavioral therapies, can help clients achieve long-term sobriety.
Medication-assisted treatment is also effective for reducing the likelihood of opioid overdose.
When used to treat opioid use disorder, these medications:
- Help recalibrate brain chemistry
- Counter the euphoric effects induced by opioids
- Alleviate psychological cravings for the drug
- Normalize key bodily functions
The best thing? The medication hits all these targets without triggering any of the euphoric or adverse effects associated with opioids.
Does medication-assisted treatment really work, though?
Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Effective?
Research consistently shows that medication-assisted treatment can improve retention in treatment programs, reduce the intensity of opioid addiction and opioid withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the need for inpatient detox.
With MAT, clients benefit from personalized programs that also include psychotherapy to improve their long-term outlook.
Overall, engaging with medication-assisted treatment is likely to improve quality of life, mental health, family relations, and employability among those with opioid use disorder. An opioid treatment program seems to be an obvious win for those seeking to end their addictions. And this is often achieved without the need for inpatient rehab.
What Medications Are Used to Treat Opioid Use Disorder?
The medications used to treat opioid abuse can be broadly cleaved into two overarching categories:
- Medications for opioid dependency
- Medications to prevent opioid overdose
Medications for opioid dependency
The following medications are used to treat addiction to short-acting opioids like morphine, codeine, and heroin:
Methadone is an extremely slow-acting opioid agonist.
Patients take oral doses of methadone. The medication take some time to hit the brain, and when it does so, there’s none of the high associated with opioids or opiates.
Used since the early 1960s to successfully treat opioid use disorder, methadone is administered in a controlled setting. This both prevents abuse and stops the drug from reaching the black market.
Methadone is especially effective if other courses of treatment have failed.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist approved by the FDA in 2002. The medication helps mitigate some of the cravings associated with opioid withdrawal without delivering any of the euphoric side effects normally triggered by opioids.
Suboxone is a combination medication containing both buprenorphine and naloxone.
Buprenorphine was the first drug available under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act, and it’s been robustly prescribed ever since, with access simplified as you don’t need to attend a special treatment center for dosing.
Monthly injectable forms of the medication are also available. This helps to iron out the hassle involved with daily dosing.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the action of opioids. It has no sedating properties, and no potential for addiction.
Vivitrol is an FDA-approved form of naltrexone that can be administered monthly.
So, all of these medications can also be applied to addiction to semi-synthetic opioids like heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
It’s perfectly safe to use MAT meds on an ongoing basis with the support and supervision of your healthcare provider.
Medications to prevent opioid overdose
Naloxone is used as a method of combating opioid overdose. When administered, the medication counters some of the toxic effects of opioids.
This medication is termed essential to a fully functional health system by the World Health Organization, but why is this?
Well, roughly two-thirds of all drug overdoses in the United States are attributed to opioid overdoses.
With such a rapid onset, naloxone can save lives when administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or via nasal spray.
Since the US opioid epidemic is not yet under control, it makes sense to continue expanding access to this vital medication. It’s the difference between life and death for many people struggling under the burden of opioid use disorder.
What are The Challenges of Medication-Assisted Treatment?
MAT is proven effective, but many barriers to treatment remain in place.
Initially, many clients face difficulties physically accessing medication. SAMHSA’s buprenorphine practitioner locator is a useful resource, but contains many inaccuracies. Even assuming you can find the right clinic, wait times for appointments are up to six months. Less than 30% of all clinics have appointments available.
Beyond this, there are also often issues with funding as the behavioral healthcare system in the United States is perpetually underfunded.
How Did We Get Here?
The opioid epidemic that continues to pummel America started in the 1990s?
At this time, there was a vigorous movement to improve the treatment of non-cancer pain. Pain management standards were altered. The CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) also began to reimburse hospitals and physicians directly for pain control.
Simultaneously, big pharmaceutical companies were aggressively advertising the benefits of opioids while downplaying their potential for addiction. With doctors starting to widely prescribe opioid painkillers for a variety of chronic pain, companies like Purdue Pharma made billions, while hundreds of thousands of Americans became addicted to opioids.
During this period, opioid overdose deaths increased five-fold.
If you need substance abuse treatment for a severe opiate addiction, we can help you out with that at TDRC.
Opiate Treatment Center: The District Recovery Community
Opioid use disorder causes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you detox from the drug. Here at The District Recovery Community, we’ll help you navigate detox and withdrawal with the appropriate FDA-approved medication and the minimum of discomfort.
Once your body is opioid-free, you’ll engage with a personalized treatment program incorporating psychotherapy alongside MAT. Stick with this program and you’ll be well on your way to sustained recovery and long-term sobriety.
All it takes to get started is to pick up the phone and call the friendly TDRC team at 844.287.8506.