Overcoming addiction isn’t easy. Those struggling with addiction often require a comprehensive approach addressing substance abuse and underlying causes. Addiction professionals use a variety of tools and evidence-based treatments to guide an individual towards a successful recovery.
Counseling and behavioral therapy can be effective for addressing underlying issues and triggers. Also, developing a strong support network is crucial for helping an individual through hard times and preventing relapse.
Can medications help with addiction?
Evidence says medications can be extremely helpful for some types of substance use disorders.
Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is one of the many tools addiction professionals may use to help those with chronic and/or severe addiction. MAT can save lives and help get individuals focused on their recovery.
Addiction is a disease affecting the brain and body. Without proper treatment, it only gets worse–destroying relationships, families, careers, physical & mental health, and life itself. Those diagnosed with cancer or diabetes wouldn’t think twice about taking medications to treat their conditions. Why should treating addiction be any different?
It shouldn’t. In fact, agencies like the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Centers for Disease Control all recommend MAT as a first line treatment for opioid and other substance use disorders.
What is Medication Assisted Treatment?
Medication assisted treatment (MAT) uses a combination of behavioral therapy and FDA-approved medications in the treatment process. Studies have shown MAT is effective in helping those struggling with opioid, alcohol, and other addictions.
MAT helps to relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings. These medications also help to safely restore chemical imbalances caused by substance abuse.
But isn’t that just substituting one drug for another?
This is a common misconception of medication assisted treatment. As you probably know, substance abuse can destroy your physical, mental, and emotional health. The medications used to treat opioid and other addictions are provided at safe doses that do not affect a person’s mental, physical, and daily functioning.
In short: MAT replaces drugs that can destroy your life–and kill you–with safer medications that ultimately help you.
MAT gives those struggling with opioid or alcohol addiction a chance to release the suffocating hold these substances create. Combining MAT with behavioral therapy allows a person to refocus on a life that is free from the dangerous substances taking control of the body and mind.
Doctors prescribing these medications closely monitor individuals to ensure they are given safe, therapeutic doses.
What Medications are Used for MAT?
For those struggling with addiction to opioids like heroin, oxycodone, codeine, morphine and hydrocodone, the following drugs may be used in different situations:
Drugs like methadone and buprenorphine activate opioid receptors to help suppress cravings. Naltrexone, on the other hand, blocks the sedative and euphoric effects of opioids. In fact, naltrexone prevents a person from getting that “high” feeling from opioids or even alcohol.
Naloxone (Narcon) serves a different purpose. It rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It’s been used by first responders, police, and addiction professionals to save lives of those overdosing on opioids.
MAT may also help those with alcohol addiction by using:
Acamprosate, for example, helps to restore the disrupted changes in the brain caused by chronic alcohol abuse. This safe, well-tolerated drug has been used to treat over 1.5 million patients throughout the world. In fact, acamprosate is safe even when a person suffers a brief relapse.
As with any drug, you want to make sure the doctor reviews your complete medical history and current medications. Discuss any potential side effects and risks of using MAT drugs. Also, be sure to consult with your doctor or treatment team before stopping any medications.
Medications used to treat addiction are not “magic bullets” that quickly make your addiction go away. You still have to do the personal work to address causes, triggers, and moving forward. MAT does, however, provide an opportunity to counteract some of the physical and neurobiological effects of abstaining from your drug of choice.
What are the Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment?
As a part of a holistic drug treatment program, MAT medications are safe, cost effective ways to help manage addiction. They can also:
- Reduce the risk of potentially fatal overdoses
- Keep you engaged in treatment
- Reduce cravings
- Help stabilize your mood and emotions
- Prevent engaging in dangerous or criminal behavior
- Help with your social and occupational functioning
- Reduce risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C due to unsafe needle use
- Improve birth outcomes among pregnant women with substance use disorders
Common Medication Assisted Treatment Myths
MAT research and data proves better outcomes and significant reductions in relapse. Still, some individuals–and even practitioners–are reluctant to embrace MAT.
For some, they may not have the correct information. Others may feel completely abstaining from any drugs is the best method of recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that MAT is “greatly undersused.”
We already talked about why medication assisted treatment is more than replacing one drug for another. Here are a few other MAT myths that need to be debunked:
- MAT only provides short term results. Individuals using MAT for up to 2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success.
- MAT is only for those with a chronic, severe substance use disorder. MAT uses a variety of medications that can be modified to fit the unique needs of most patients–especially those struggling with opioids.
- MAT makes overdose more likely. MAT helps to prevent overdoses. Once someone detoxes from opioids, even one brief relapse can cause a fatal overdose. MAT helps reduce cravings and gives those struggling with opioids a safer alternative.
- MAT keeps a person from experiencing a full recovery. MAT allows a person to function better and enjoy a better quality of life so they can focus on the personal issues contributing to their addictive behaviors.
Is Medication Assisted Treatment Right for You?
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Call (310) 294-9030 to get help now.