According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), medication-assisted treatment, otherwise known as MAT, uses medications, in “combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a ‘whole-patient’ approach to treating substance use disorders (SUDs),” particularly opioid and alcohol use disorders. Medications used in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and MAT regimens are tailored to meet the client’s needs.

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat SUD and help clients sustain sobriety following treatment. The medications used in MAT operate to restore brain chemistry to its pre-addiction state,  block the pleasurable effects of alcohol and drugs, relieve cravings, and repair bodily functions.

The ultimate goal of MAT is full recovery. According to the SAMHSA website, MAT provides a “comprehensive, individually tailored program of medication and behavioral therapy” that addresses the clients’ needs so they can remain substance-free following treatment and create the life they want for themselves.

Medications Commonly Used in MAT

In MAT regimens, three commonly used medications are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. All three of these medications have a specific purpose and help with different addictions.

  • Methadone has been used since the 1960s to treat opioid use disorders by suppressing cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Individuals being treated with methadone must be under a physician’s care, and methadonecan only be dispensed through an opioid treatment program certified by the SAMHSA. Of the drugs used to treat opioid use disorder,  methadone is the most widely used and has been studied the most.
  • Buprenorphine reduces or eliminates the withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person stops using opioids. One benefit of buprenorphine is that it can be prescribed or dispensed by certified healthcare providers in clinics, community hospitals, health departments, or correction facilities, making it a more accessible treatment option. Buprenorphine is closely regulated, and healthcare providers who prescribe it must qualify for a waiver to prescribe the medication.
  • Naltrexone, unlike methadone and buprenorphine, is an opioid antagonist, which means it works by blocking opioid receptors and preventing their euphoric effects. While naltrexone can help reduce cravings, it should only be used seven to 14 days after detoxification from opioids has been completed. Naltrexone can be prescribed by any healthcare provider licensed to prescribe medications.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

MAT is commonly used to treat alcohol addiction. During treatment for alcohol addiction, medications are used to ease withdrawal symptoms, which can be life-threatening. After detox, medication can be used to help the individual remain alcohol-free. Three medications are frequently used to help treat alcohol use disorder (AUD): acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Acamprosate can be prescribed on the fifth day of abstinence and helps the brain to resume the normal functioning that was disrupted by alcohol abuse. Disulfiram discourages people from drinking alcohol because if they drink while on disulfiram, they will have unpleasant side effects that can include headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and anxiety. Disulfiram should only be prescribed to individuals who are abstaining from alcohol. Naltrexone decreases cravings for alcohol because it blocks the “feel-good” effects of alcohol.

Medication-Assisted Treatment and Stimulant Addiction

Medications are used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms when a person is detoxing from stimulants. Although at present, there are no FDA-approved medications used to treat stimulant addiction, scientists are working to develop them.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

One of the more common uses of MAT is for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, rapid heart rate, insomnia, and tremors.

MAT, when used to treat opioid use disorder, involves using medication to wean patients off the drug and fight the cravings that come with the recovery process.

Some examples of opioids that MAT can treat are:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxymorphone

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Methadone Clinics

Methadone, which is a painkiller, was found to help treat opioid addiction and began to be widely used in the 1960s in response to the problem of heroin addiction. These clinics dispense medication and provide counseling and other services to people struggling with opioid addiction, are certified by SAMHSA, and are registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Individuals are given methadone to help treat withdrawal symptoms and suppress cravings.

Methadone clinics were established because it is crucial to stay on the prescribed amount of methadone consistently and adhere to all the protocols set in place, and methadone clinics help individuals do so. They are there to help those with addiction issues work towards long-lasting recovery.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?

Gaining an awareness of MAT for SUD creates a new opportunity for those struggling. So, how do you know if this form of treatment is right for you? The best way to determine if you or someone in need of assistance is eligible for MAT is to talk to a doctor or rehabilitation professional.

Many addiction treatment centers offer MAT as part of inpatient or outpatient treatment following detox. It is important to note that individuals must completely detox from substances before they start on MAT. It can be a daunting experience trying to find the right treatment program, but many options are available.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a service offered through drug and alcohol treatment programs that helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms during detox and subsequent treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or in need of assistance, you may be considering MAT as a part of an option for your healing process, particularly if you are addicted to opioids or alcohol. At Bella Monte Recovery Center in Desert Hot Springs, California, we offer MAT combined with counseling and behavioral therapies. In addition to more traditional therapies, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities, including psychodrama, eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), art therapy, and experiential therapy. In order to get the best possible outcome, we create a custom treatment plan for each client. To learn more about what we have to offer at Bella Monte, call (800) 974-1938 today.