Medication-assisted treatment is a method of opioid recovery that has been proven to be a successful strategy for long-term addiction. It is a useful tool to combine several techniques that work for individuals struggling with opioid addiction and significantly improve their quality of life. When getting treatment, there are many things to consider, so educating yourself on medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, can be critical to navigating the system and understanding what to expect.  

What is the goal of medication-assisted treatment?

The goal of MAT is to allow those suffering from addiction a clinically proven method to overcome barriers to treatment. MAT specifically utilizes medication therapy with counseling therapy to identify concerns related to why someone is using substances and how the core issues can be addressed. Medications such as Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone are medications that affect the receptors in the brain related to addiction, can help with drug-seeking behaviors, and avoid the feeling of being ‘high .’This allows more control and transitions into clean lifestyles free of opioids.

What are the benefits of using opioid agonist medications for opioid use disorder treatment?

There are many benefits of using agonist medications, but all allow the individual to recover from addiction more comfortably. Since there are a variety of medications that can be used in this treatment, they differ accordingly. For instance, methadone makes withdrawal symptoms less intense and blocks any euphoria, which may encourage more substance use. Buprenorphine acts similarly but is a partial agonist, meaning it doesn’t adhere to the receptors in our brains the same way that methadone does. It also does not produce euphoria and has few side effects. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids and does not have any physical dependence but does not focus specifically on withdrawal symptoms.

What is a mat waiver?

A MAT waiver is specific training that physicians must undergo to prescribe the medication-assisted treatment medication buprenorphine. It includes an 8-hour course and exam to educate clinicians on the use of this medication. The Drug Enforcement Agency requires this.  

When did medication-assisted treatment begin?

Medication-assisted treatment began getting attention in the Civil War era when opioid addiction was rising due to prescribed medications for pain management. This included veterans and many upper-class women for menstrual concerns or pain. In the 1920s, Congress established institutions to help with opioid addictions that included varying aspects of treatment, such as psychological, social, and medical methods. Methadone began to be more thoroughly researched around 1964 as a treatment, especially when researchers discovered its efficacy related to more consistent employment or school attendance. Naltrexone started its testing in the 1980s and gained FDA approval in 1995.

Who benefits from medication-assisted treatment?

Anyone who is suffering from an opioid dependency can benefit from medication-assisted treatment. Many times, those suffering from addiction will utilize friends, family, or illegal actions to obtain medications to feed their needs. This can include utilizing them for money or prescriptions. When someone is being treated or recovers from opioid addiction, their support system heals with them.

What are the benefits of medication-assisted treatment?

The greatest benefits found from medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Increased survival rates
  • Increased retention in treatment
  • Decreased illegal activity participation
  • Steady employment
  • Improved birth outcomes
  • Improved quality of life

In general, this type of treatment is more all-encompassing, which leads to great outcomes. For instance, those who use substances due to trauma are often also in counseling or therapy to address other core issues that can contribute to substance use. Medication-assisted treatment has a team of clinicians and support staff who help increase the individuals’ chances of success.

Is MAT harm reduction?

Harm reduction refers to strategies focused on decreasing risks with drug use. It applies practical principles that recognize using is part of our world and seeks to minimize harm to the individual and others. This can include education about how and why needle sharing should not be used and alternatives to using more sterile. Harm reduction counseling can consist of having a conversation with the individual about being safer during use, syringe programs, and non-abstinence housing. The overall goal for harm reduction techniques is to be realistic and non-judgmental towards those who find themselves in substance use addiction situations. These principles can be applied to medication-assisted treatment programs.

Why is MAT important?

Medication-assisted treatments are critical and effective for many sufferers of addiction. This treatment modality is important because it will address several areas that can impact someone’s need to use substances. For instance, if there are housing concerns or abuse, medication-assisted treatments have resources and clinicians who can aid with relocation and trauma. In addition to providing valuable resources, it is also practical, which contributes to it being more successful than many other addiction treatment options.

What is the success rate of MAT?

Medication-assisted therapy has a great track record of being effective, both short-term and long-term. A study completed in 2015 analyzed if MAT was successful long-term since little research had been done at that point. It specifically looked at treatment related to buprenorphine/naloxone for opioid substance use. After 18 months of starting treatment, half reported they were abstinent from drugs. After 3.5 years, fewer than 10 percent were considered dependent on them. Overall, every patient that participated began using opioids, and after 42 months, less than 10 percent were dependent on opioids.

Recovery Connection prioritizes the health and preferences of those suffering from opioid addiction and works to achieve a person-centered treatment plan. That means whatever matters to you or your loved one will be included and highlighted during treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, contact Recovery Connection to get started on the path to treatment.