Triggr Health
Medication assisted treatment

Treatment Types: Medication Assisted Treatment

MAT is the highly effective and evidence-based practice of combining medications and traditional therapies to decrease cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, and maintain recovery

Medication Assisted Treatment (“MAT”) is not a program per se, but a service offered within both outpatient and inpatient programs. MAT is the use of prescribed medications in combination with counseling, 12-step meetings, and other behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. The use of these medications is intended to aid quitting, decrease withdrawal symptoms, and sustain recovery.

MAT is one of the most controversial and stigmatized pathways out there, as there is a misunderstanding that MAT simply replaces one addiction with another. However, especially for opioid use disorders, MAT is the most effective route and has the greatest efficacy of any treatment pathway. If you are seeking treatment for opioid dependency, we recommend avoiding any program that does not offer MAT.

Let’s talk through some of the common questions, hesitations, and misconceptions about MAT!

What is MAT?

In addition to the regular programming of counseling, meetings, therapy, and other programs that offer, MAT will administer medication to assist in your recovery efforts from an opioid or alcohol addiction.

As medication type and dosage is tailored to each individual, MAT is an option for most individuals with substance use disorders, though a consultation with a physician is typically required to verify that MAT is necessary.

Where is MAT offered?

MAT is offered in many (but not all) IOP, OP, inpatient and residential programs. You will need to ask specifically if it’s offered during your initial research or assessment call to the program.

Is MAT effective?

MAT has been extensively researched and is an evidence-based practice. In the case of opioids, research has shown that MAT significantly increases treatment program retention, reduces illicit opioid use, reduces cravings, and provides relief from withdrawal symptoms. After buprenorphine became available in Baltimore, for example, heroin overdose deaths decreased by 37 percent. Studies have reached similar conclusions regarding MAT for alcohol use disorder.

The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Medical Association, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all endorse MAT as a first line treatment for opioid and alcohol use disorder.

What medications are included in MAT?

The FDA-approved medications for treating opioid use disorder are:

  • Methadone (Dolophine ®, Methadose ®): used in opioid withdrawal management. Use of Methadone in opioid addiction treatment has been proven to be more effective than abstinence-based approaches.
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone ®, Subutex ®, Probuphine ®, Sublocade ®): used to decrease the high of opioids and manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol®): used to prevent relapse to opioid use, as well as for those dependent on alcohol in reducing cravings. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids if they are used.

The FDA-approved medications for treating alcohol use disorder are:

  • Naltrexone (ReVia®): daily pill medication that blocks opioid receptors and alcohol’s effects of releasing dopamine into the brain. It reduces cravings for alcohol by lessening the rewarding effects of drinking. It also helps prevent relapses.
  • Acamprosate (Campral®): daily pill medication that reduces alcohol cravings and decreases the enjoyable effects of alcohol consumption. It also lessens symptoms of long-lasting withdrawal, such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and dysphoria.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse®): daily pill medication that interferes with the breakdown of alcohol. If you consume alcohol while taking antabuse, it causes unpleasant symptoms: nausea, irregular heartbeat, and hot flashes.

Your MAT program will help you figure out which medication and what dosage is right for you and work with you to develop a long term recovery plan.

How long would I be on these medications? What is different about these meds from any other drug?

While MAT medications like buprenorphine and methadone are opioids, they do not provide the same “high” or sense of euphoria from opioids like heroin or fentanyl. Rather, these drugs serve to reduce cravings, restore balance to the brain circuits affected by addiction, and normalize bodily functions impaired by use of other opioids. MAT medications are long-acting and safe. Research indicates that MAT helps prevent overdoses, and that the combination of these medications and behavioral therapies can successfully treat SUDs and help maintain recovery better than behavioral therapies alone.

In terms of time on the medication, research has shown that patients on MAT for at least 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success. After a sustained period of abstinence with MAT, you can work with your physician to develop a tapering schedule that will allow you reduce or cease the medications.

How do I know if MAT is right for me?

When considered a program with MAT, it might be worth asking yourself:

  • Have I struggled with abstinence-based treatment programs in the past?
  • Have I relapsed after completing a program or during a program in the past?
  • Am I willing to take medications for a long period of time in order to sustain sobriety?

If your answer to any or all of these is yes, MAT might be worth considering. MAT is a personal choice and it’s not for everyone. We recommend discussing the option further with your physician to see if it is right for you.

Will insurance cover MAT?

Some commercial insurance plans cover some or all of your chosen program and/or the medication provided in MAT. Coverage will likely depend on if MAT/a treatment program is deemed medically necessary, prescription coverage included in your plan, and if the MAT medication is on your plan’s approved medication list.

Is MAT safe?

When used correctly and under the supervision of the treatment program, these medications have been demonstrated to be completely safe. However, using illicit drugs concurrently, changing the dosage, or not following timing guidelines increases the risks of dangerous side effects. If you do not feel as though you can follow through with the protocol given to you by a program for safe medication administration, MAT might not be the best option for you.

Bottom Line: Despite some surrounding stigma, MAT is a highly effective and safe pathway for addressing your substance use disorder.

If you need help finding a program with MAT or if you have other questions, you can speak to our treatment experts by texting 312-248-6218 at any time.

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