Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the first-line care for opioid use disorder. MAT reduces the chance of relapse and overdose, helping clients sustain their recovery. This effective treatment has been used for decades, but some people still misunderstand how and why this treatment works. This article will provide background on MAT and address some common myths.
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based program primarily used to treat individuals with opioid use disorders like heroin or prescription pain relievers. However, those with an alcohol addiction can also benefit.
As the name suggests, MAT uses medications and behavioral therapies to provide an integrated approach to achieving sobriety. Each program is a little different as each client has unique circumstances that have to be considered. The goal of MAT is to wean clients off opioids, mitigate withdrawal symptoms, and aid them in staying sober.
How Does the Medication Help?
MAT is considered the gold standard for treating opioid use disorders because of how effective it has proven to be over several decades of use. Approved medications have been found to reduce the death rate of those struggling with addiction by 50% or greater.
Prescribed medications work by interacting with opioid receptors located in the brain. The medications satisfy the brain’s opioid cravings without getting the person high. The doctor knows the right amount to administer to suppress an appetite for drugs, helping the client stabilize and function normally.
Which Medications Are Typically Prescribed?
Treatment facilities like West Coast Recovery Centers offer a number of medication options, and each substance is a little different. The client’s doctor will determine which medication is most appropriate given their needs and recovery goals. Some options include:
What Are 5 Myths About MAT?
Even though MAT has been used for a long time, some people still misunderstand how this treatment works. The following are five common myths to be aware of and the reasons they are inaccurate.
#1. “You’re replacing an illegal addiction with a legal one.”
Medications prescribed in MAT are not designed to get a client high. Its purpose is to:
- Ease cravings
- Normalize brain chemistry
- Block the pleasurable effects of opioids
- Improve physical functions without withdrawal effects
#2. “You’ll be on medication forever.”
How long a client stays on medication varies from person to person. A primary goal of MAT is to help clients get to a point where they don’t need medication. However, the option of continuing medication is left open. Clients should be re-evaluated periodically to determine when and if it’s time to cease treatment. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “There is no maximum recommended duration of maintenance treatment, and for some patients, treatment may continue indefinitely.” In other words, some individuals come off medication but continue counseling or therapy.
#3. “It’s better to quit cold turkey.”
This is not only bad advice, but it is dangerous as well. Withdrawal symptoms can be insufferable and potentially life-threatening. You may have:
- Complications from pre-existing health conditions
- Dehydration and heart failure from vomiting and diarrhea
- Disturbing delusions and hallucinations resulting in self-harm
- Overdose if you start using again after a period of sobriety
Medical supervision is highly recommended for withdrawal from both opioid and alcohol addiction.
#4. “You can stay sober without medication.”
Some people certainly can, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. In fact, research reports alarming relapse rates for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorders. It is estimated that about 65 to 70% of individuals with AUD relapse within one year and often within the first three months of sobriety. Rates of relapse for opiate addiction have been found to be much higher compared to other drugs. Up to 91% of individuals with opiate addiction relapse.
#5. “MAT has side effects too!”
All medications have potential side effects, but using other medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs can increase the chance of self-harm. The prescribing doctor will discuss the pros and cons of MAT with the client before starting treatment. Clients also have a responsibility to ask questions to alleviate any concerns or confusion.
Addiction to Opioids Can Be Treated
Opioids are powerful substances that can cause intense withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of the last dose. This is one of the main reasons getting clean can be so challenging.
If you have tried to quit using but haven’t had any luck, medication-assisted treatment might be what you have been missing. There is no shame in using an evidence-based, doctor-monitored regimen to help you stabilize. It’s time to start living your life again.
Addiction to opioids can feel like an endless cycle of wanting to quit but being unable to. This class of addictive substances has a powerful effect on the brain, causing a person to experience intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. An individual may still struggle with urges even after an extended period of abstinence. West Coast Recovery Centers is an outpatient treatment center located in Oceanside, CA. We treat adults who have substance use disorders like opioid and alcohol addiction. We strongly believe that medication-assisted treatment should be an option for clients battling these addictions. However, any treatment plan has to be tailored to each client’s circumstances. Some may benefit more than others when it comes to MAT. Our clinical team will help you determine the path to recovery that best suits your needs. Call us with questions regarding our addiction treatment programs at (760) 492-6509.