Medication-assisted treatment can play an important part in an individual’s recovery journey, helping them to leave substance abuse behind. This blog offers some information about the various safe and effective medications available and how they can support a productive, sober life.
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications to treat substance use disorders, particularly opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Treatment programs offer MAT alongside behavioral therapies, support groups, and other long-term treatment options that treat the entire person, supporting meaningful and long-lasting change.
Studies have shown that a combination of MAT and therapy can effectively treat alcohol and opioid use disorders, helping individuals break free from drug abuse and live fulfilling lives.
The Federal and Drug Agency (FDA) has approved several medications to use in MAT programs, shown to be safe and effective by extensive, large-scale studies. MAT is tailored to each individual’s needs, offering the medications that work best for them and continually monitoring and evaluating their progress.
Why Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Important?
Since the late 1990s, the United States has been in the grip of an opioid epidemic. In 2020, an estimated 2.7 million people lived with an opioid use disorder (a condition characterized by the inability to stop or control opioid use) and 68,630 people died from an opioid-related overdose, including opioid prescription pain relievers.
In light of this devastating public health crisis, preventing and treating opioid use disorder has become increasingly important. Medication-assisted treatment offers a lifeline for many people struggling with opioid addiction, helping them to recover and reclaim a safe and healthy life. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT has been shown to:
- save the lives of people in treatment
- increase the amount of time people stay in opioid treatment programs
- decrease illegal opiate use and criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- increase clients’ abilities to find and keep employment
What Medications Can Treat Opioid Dependence and Addiction?
Opioid substances work by binding to and activating opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. The opioid system regulates many vital functions in the body, including emotion, pain, and breathing. By acting opioid receptors, opioid drugs affect these functions. This accounts for their euphoric effects and pain-relieving properties, as well as dangerous side effects such as slowed breathing, heart rate, and death.
Opioid addiction treatment programs may offer buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to support the recovery process from prescription and illicit opioid addiction. These medications act on the body’s opioid system, systematically affecting various symptoms of opioid use disorders such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it binds to some opioid receptors in the brain in the place of opioid drugs. However, while it still produces effects such as respiratory depression or euphoria in moderate doses, these effects are weaker than the effect of opioids like heroin.
When taken according to a prescription, Buprenorphine is a safe and effective medication that helps to:
- Reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Reduce the potential for misuse (due to its limited euphoric effects)
- Increase the safety of overdoses
Buprenorphine is the first FDA-approved MAT medicine that physicians can prescribe from physician offices, increasing the accessibility of opioid treatment programs.
Methadone is an opioid agonist that decreases cravings, reduces withdrawal symptoms, and blocks the effects of other opioid drugs. It helps individuals to sustain recovery, stay away from dangerous street opioids, and pursue fulfilling futures.
Methadone is most effective when taken over a long period of at least 12 months. Some people require continuing methadone maintenance for a longer period.
Unlike buprenorphine and methadone, Naltrexone is not an opioid. Instead, it is an opioid antagonist that binds to and blocks opioid receptors, preventing the sedative and euphoric effects of other drugs including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl. It can also relieve physiological cravings.
Extended-release injectable suspension Naltrexone, which only requires administration once a month, makes it easier for people to continue the treatment, addressing the problem of non-compliance and avoiding the need for regular administration.
Naltrexone has the advantage that it is a non-addictive substance with no potential for abuse. However, people taking Naltrexone will quickly lose their tolerance to opioid substances, potentially putting them at a higher risk of overdose if they do relapse. Moreover, individuals have to wait until they have completed the opioid withdrawal process before they start using the medication.
While the different features of each medication can seem confusing, no one has to make the decision alone. Instead, mental health professionals work closely with each client to assess the advantages and disadvantages of each medication and find the best and safest solution for them.
How Can Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Help Treat Alcohol Use Disorders?
Alcohol use disorder is a widespread problem that affects over 14 million people in the United States. Despite its prevalence, alcoholism is a serious condition that can cause pervasive damage to an individual’s health, social, and work life. While there is no cure for alcohol use disorders, with effective support, anyone can achieve long-lasting recovery.
Some of the most common medications for alcohol use disorders are acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Research shows that when offered alongside behavioral therapies, these medications are effective for most people. As with opioid use disorders, alcohol addiction treatment programs involve an in-depth assessment process to help medics determine the best treatment options for each individual, supporting them to reach their recovery goals.
Achieve Lasting Recovery with Ebb Tide
At Ebb Tide Treatment Centers, we believe that anyone can overcome alcohol and substance use disorders. Recovery doesn’t have to be a painful process: with the support of our expert and caring staff and diverse treatment approaches, individuals and their loved ones can learn the skills necessary to leave substance abuse behind and reclaim joyful and meaningful lives.
Our evidence-based opioid treatment programs are individualized to meet the unique needs of each client, offering them the best chance of reaching their recovery goals. We believe in empowering every individual to access their inner strengths and take back control of their actions and lives.
Our rehab programs offer clients more than just getting sober. To bridge the gap between treatment and recovery, we support clients in important aspects of their everyday existence, developing their life skills so they can reconnect with sober life and learn how to thrive. Rediscovering the joy of living is a beautiful thing in itself and helps clients to prevent relapse and maintain abstinence in the long term.
At Ebb Tide, we match our exceptional medication-assisted treatment program with state-of-the-art facilities that support a healthy lifestyle and holistic, transformative experience. Our serene, seaside location is the perfect place to focus, introspect, and relax as clients move through addiction recovery. We offer gym workouts, yoga, volleyball, and group sports and support clients to eat balanced, nutritious meals.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or substance use disorders, contact us today. We’re committed to offering the best quality treatment based on each client’s unique needs.