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Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is utilized to make recovery safer and more sustainable. It interrupts addiction in the body, allowing for the healing process to begin. Medications used in MAT do this by reducing or reversing the impact of opioids and other drugs on the body. 

There are three types of medications used in MAT. This article will discuss how and when MAT is used and what to do if you think you may need medication-assisted treatment. 

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

MAT stands for medication-assisted treatment, a treatment that aids in the recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs) by lessening the impact of opioids and sometimes alcohol. Drug addiction stems from the body’s dependence on drugs to achieve a desired high. By blocking the development of that high, addiction is interrupted, and the body can begin to heal. 

The medications used in MAT must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prescription usage is tailored to an individual’s needs. While MAT primarily addresses opioid addiction, it can also be prescribed for heroin addiction and addiction to painkillers, including opiates. 

While the addictive process is interrupted, MAT is combined with other therapies, becoming one component of a holistic approach to addiction recovery. In conjunction with talk therapy, group therapy, and art therapies, MAT works to address the whole person, body, and mind. 

MAT is often prescribed for a period of three or more months. It is recommended that MAT for opioid addiction be continued for at least 12 months. This is shown to lower instances of relapse and overdose in both the short and long term.

Types of Medication Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are three types of medication prescribed for use in MAT, which include: 

#1 Agonists

Agonists are primarily used to discontinue substance use gradually. They work by reducing cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. In turn, this allows the client to focus on psychological recovery and supports their long-term addiction recovery. Agonists are synthetic opioids used for opioid use disorders. They include methadone and levomethadyl acetate.

#2 Partial Agonists

Partial agonists work along the same lines as agonists but with reduced effect. They may be selected for use because they are less likely than agonists to create dependence. Buprenorphine and Suboxone are examples of partial agonists.

#3 Antagonists

Antagonists block the effect of opioids in the brain, eliminating the positive effects that keep people addicted to substances. They can also reverse an overdose. Naloxone is an antagonist.

Therapies Paired With Medication-Assisted Treatment

As discussed, MAT is used in conjunction with other therapies. It is often paired with behavioral therapy or counseling but also works well with or alongside other therapies. These may include movement, music, or art therapy. The goal is to treat the whole person by taking a holistic approach to health. This means that health is more than just what is happening with your body or your brain. It takes both into account as well as your social and emotional states. 

In order for MAT to be most effective, there needs to be critical discussions on why addiction exists in your life and how to combat it. What this means is that you will need to work with a mental health professional to determine the root causes of SUD. There may be reasons you are unaware of — such as a cycle of family trauma — that play into your addiction. This is necessary because MAT is time-sensitive and will be discontinued in your treatment at some point. In turn, you will need to have other methods for maintaining your sobriety when this happens. Knowing the root causes of your addiction will help you to be proactive as you seek additional coping mechanisms that will sustain your recovery.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for You?

If you have repeatedly tried quitting the use of opioids only to find yourself back in the same pattern of substance use, MAT may be a good fit for your recovery. It is possible you require medical intervention to break the cycle of substance abuse. When MATs are prescribed, this cycle of dependence is one reason why. In order to find out if MAT is right for you, you should contact a medical professional, such as our staff at West Coast Recovery Centers.

Ultimately, your medical health professional will decide whether MAT is the best and safest option in your addiction recovery. There are multiple factors considered when making this decision. Included in these are what type of substances are being used, how much, and for how long. It is possible to make a recovery without MAT; however, this is not advised due to painful withdrawal. Ask your health professional why they are or are not recommending MAT. You should have a complete understanding of your recovery process. 

Medication-assisted treatment is a type of therapy used to support individuals in addiction recovery and relapse prevention by providing medication that lessens the desire to use drugs and associated withdrawal symptoms. It is a treatment option used in conjunction with individual and group therapies in a holistic treatment model. Medications can be agonists, partial agonists, or antagonists, and each has their own use and purpose. If you or someone you know struggles with drug or alcohol addiction and needs support to recover, West Coast Recovery Centers can help. We offer holistic treatment, including medication-assisted treatment in conjunction with other effective therapies. To learn more or schedule an appointment, call (760) 492-6509.

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