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Treatment for mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs) can utilize a variety of different approaches. Often, a holistic approach to treatment will utilize methods that treat both the mind and the body in order to maximize the benefits of treatment. One option that may be explored is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). 

MAT is a treatment option that incorporates medication in addition to therapy to encourage sustained recovery and prevention of overdose. However, many people are hesitant to try MAT because of the social stigma surrounding medication. 

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

MAT uses medications, in addition to psychotherapy and counseling, to provide a more holistic approach to treatment. MAT programs are inherently tailored to each individual’s needs, as the medication prescribed to one client will vary from the medication prescribed to another. Similarly, the types of therapies used in MAT may vary based on each client’s individual needs. 

MAT can be used to treat a variety of disorders and dependencies; however, it’s most commonly used to treat serious mental health issues and/or opioid use disorder. MAT aims to introduce medication as a complement to other forms of therapy. Medication alone will not be sufficient in treating mental health conditions or other issues, but it can be a powerful tool when used in addition to other forms of therapy. The two most common instances of MAT being utilized are drug detoxification and behavioral therapy.

Drug Detoxification

MAT is most commonly used for detox from drugs, typically opioids or alcohol. Detoxification can be extremely dangerous if attempted alone or without the supervision of a medical professional. Due to this, drug detoxes typically occur at an inpatient facility. 

The goal of detox is to manage withdrawal symptoms while decreasing physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Detox is more focused on short-term goals of decreasing dependence rather than long-term growth, such as emotional growth and healing. During detox, clients will often be given medication in order for them to manage their withdrawal symptoms and more easily adjust to their newfound sobriety.

Behavioral Therapy

MAT is often paired with cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), which aims to uncover the psychological roots of addiction. Behavioral therapies often aim to explore the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. MAT may be used to help maintain the balance of a client’s brain chemistry to ensure that they’re able to safely participate in this therapy, which can be extremely emotional and revealing. 

Often, behavioral therapy will greatly benefit most clients without the need for medication, but certain situations may require a more holistic approach. People with intense trauma or experience intense symptoms may require the assistance of medication to fully heal.

Is MAT Effective?

MAT has proven to be effective in reducing the need for hospitalization and extensive detox for those struggling with intense withdrawal, especially from opioid dependency. The ultimate goal of MAT is to provide the resources necessary for individuals to work toward long-term recovery. MAT aims to prepare clients for life outside of the recovery center so that they can be successful in maintaining their sobriety. 

The many benefits of MAT include:

  • Improving the likelihood of survival 
  • Increasing client retention for treatment and recovery
  • Decreasing opiate use among individuals with an opioid use disorder
  • Improving the ability to secure employment
  • Reducing the likelihood of relapse
  • Improving social functioning
  • Reducing the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C

The list of benefits that MAT offers is extensive, and clients who require the extensive care that MAT provides often benefit from it greatly. However, MAT is typically reserved for rather extreme cases of dependency in which the client’s physical well-being is potentially at risk. MAT is not for everybody; talk to a trusted professional about your needs to determine if this may be the treatment option for you.

Is MAT Safe?

Some people are hesitant about MAT because they feel it’s simply trading one vice for another. However, the goal of MAT medications is simply to relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the brain. These medications are prescribed by doctors only as needed to improve brain functioning and aid the recovery process. If taken as directed, the dosages of the medication are not enough to achieve a high. Additionally, as they progress through their recovery and the need for these medications becomes less pertinent, clients will gradually wean off their medication. 

The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved a variety of medications whose intended use is to treat alcohol and opiate disorders. Thus, the medications prescribed when utilizing MAT are regulated and backed by extensive research conducted by federal agencies. 

Overall, an individual’s needs are specific to them, so there’s no one-size-fits-all option in addiction recovery. However, for many individuals, MAT may be an effective tool for beginning their recovery in a safe and regulated manner. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we will work with you to create an individualized plan that best suits your needs. 

Medication-assisted treatment is a form of treatment that uses both prescription medications and therapy to achieve the best outcome for the client. MAT is often effectively used to treat intense withdrawal symptoms typically associated with alcohol or opiate withdrawal. Since this typically occurs at the beginning of recovery, clients are often weaned off medication as they progress. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we believe in creating individualized treatment plans for each client, some of which may include MAT. We understand that MAT could be vital for certain clients during the initial stages of recovery. If you’re wondering if MAT may be the right treatment plan for you, call our professionals today at (760) 492-6509