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Treatment of mental health utilizes many different approaches. For example, there are traditional treatment methods that highlight psychotherapy, or more holistic treatment options that focus on the mind and body to encourage complete healing. 

Another approach for mental health treatment is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medication-assisted treatment is an option to treat a range of mental health conditions and associated symptoms. It is also an option to help individuals sustain recovery and prevent overdose from occurring. 

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medication, typically in combination with psychotherapy or other counseling approaches, to treat mental health conditions. 

The medications used in (MAT) are known as prescription medications. They have all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications specifically treat the symptoms of withdrawal and psychological cravings, which cause distressing disturbances in the brain and body. 

Some of the medications used in MAT specifically:

  • treat alcohol use disorder (with examples including acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone)
  • treat opioid dependency (with examples including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone)
  • prevent opioid overdose (with example including naloxone)
  • providing relief for co-occurring disorders

Alcohol and drug addiction cause significant alterations to an individual’s brain structure, so much so that the withdrawal effects can be unmanageable. These medications operate to normalize chemistry in the brain, providing comfort and relief during those initial stages of recovery. 

MAT Combined With Therapy

Medication on its own is not enough to treat, prevent, or provide relief from mental health conditions. The special thing about MAT is that medication is used to complement and assist other forms of therapy. 

The main goal of medication-assisted treatment is to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treating a condition. This means that, while the medications can provide relief from symptoms, treatment must also consider the psychological and contextual issues that surround the struggling individual. Addiction must be addressed and treated from many different angles. 

MAT is used in combination with therapies to provide long-term relief from substance use disorders and other mental health conditions. Some situations might include:

Drug Detoxification – One of the main reasons that MAT is used is for detox from drugs and alcohol. Detoxification occurs in an inpatient facility or hospital that offers 24/7 medical supervision. This is necessary because quitting substances “cold-turkey” can be incredibly dangerous. 

The main goals of detox include safely managing withdrawal symptoms while lessening physical and psychological dependence on the addictive substance. With MAT, a therapist or other mental health professional will allow time for the individual to get adjusted to their newfound feelings of sobriety. After detox, true healing will begin. 

Behavioral Therapy – Another circumstance that involves MAT is when it is used in combination with behavioral therapy. These situations work to uncover the psychological and environmental factors that accompany addiction. MAT is important for many cases, as this helps the individual to experience enough balance in their brain chemistry that they are able to explore the causes of their addiction through intimate conversation with a therapist. 

Medication-assisted treatment is a valuable resource for when conditions and symptoms are chronic and persistent. It is not something that is recommended for everyone going through recovery. Instead, it is recommended only when advanced forms of treatment are necessary to treat intense symptoms. 

Exploring The Effectiveness of MAT

MAT has proven itself time and time again as an effective method to reduce the need for intensive detox or hospitalization due to addictive withdrawal. MAT offers a comprehensive treatment option, specifically tailored to the needs of an individual as they work towards a life of long-lasting recovery. 

MAT holds many benefits, including:

  • improving patient survival
  • increasing patient willingness to continue treatment and recovery
  • decreasing opiate use among individuals with substance use disorder
  • increasing patients’ ability to find and maintain employment
  • improving birth outcomes among women that struggle with substance use disorders during pregnancy
  • reducing the potential for relapse
  • increasing social functioning

Looking at these benefits, it is essential to understand that medication-assisted treatment is an effective treatment method for severe circumstances of addiction and substance use disorder. Without MAT, the potential for opioid use disorder will continue to rise. Individuals that suffer from the intense withdrawal effects will continue to experience relapse. This is an effective solution and prevention method for exactly that. 

One of the myths involved in MAT is that the use of medications are substituting one addiction for another. When a person’s withdrawal symptoms are being treated, they are prescribed a certain dosage of medication that does not get them high. Instead, it treats cravings and withdrawals. 

These medications are crucial in helping to restore brain functioning, specifically in brain areas affected by addiction. These medications are prescribed on a need-be basis to treat dependency. A patient will wean off these medications while they continue to dive deep into their recovery journey. 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a form of treatment that combines the use of prescription medications with therapy. When medication is used to assist other forms of treatment, treatment outcomes are most effective. Medication-assisted treatment is used to treat intense withdrawal symptoms that are experienced during the initial stages of recovery, especially in cases of alcohol or opiate withdrawal. MAT is often necessary to relieve chronic physical and psychological pain. It offers many other benefits during a person’s recovery journey. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that medication-assisted treatment is sometimes necessary. We utilize MAT on a need-be basis, especially for circumstances of intense withdrawal. It is important that MAT is offered during the initial stages of recovery to reverse dependency and to offer comfort as a person is taking necessary steps towards healing. For more information on MAT, or about our treatment center, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509