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Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Addiction is a chronic disease with similar relapse rates as other chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Similarly, lifestyle changes are necessary for recovery. And in some instances, people suffering with substance abuse need medication to heal. Medication assisted treatment (MAT) provides both relapse-prevention measures:

  1. Research-backed medication and medical support
  2. Behavioral therapies that prompt lifestyle shifts

Vogue Recovery Center uses medication assisted treatment on a case-by-case basis as clinically appropriate.

What Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Research shows medication assisted treatment can be an effective tool in the battle against a drug that takes over 100 lives every day. Medication assisted treatment is the use of medications along with behavioral therapy and other recovery support to treat opioid use disorders. These medications help people addicted to opioids by:
  • Rebalancing brain chemicals
  • Blocking the euphoric effects of the drug
  • Easing cravings
  • Normalizing body functions
There are three MATs approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid addiction:

1.   Suboxone (Buprenorphine)

Suboxone is one of two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist originally developed to treat pain. Suboxone binds to the same opioid receptor in the brain as morphine, heroin, and other opiates. What makes buprenorphine treatment the preferred MAT of many addiction specialists is that it’s a partial agonist. This means that at low doses, it acts the same as other opiates in suppressing pain. With increasing doses, it starts to block the opioid receptor and doesn’t allow it to be stimulated (i.e., make you feel high). This allows clinicians to reduce cravings and physical pain of opioid withdrawal symptoms with less worry that you’ll begin abusing Suboxone. Opioid treatment with Suboxone also prevents you from getting high on other opiates. For example, if you take Suboxone and then use heroin or OxyContin, you shouldn’t feel any euphoria from the illicit drugs.

2.   Vivitrol (Naltrexone)

Commonly known by the brand name Vivitrol, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that’s injectable. Similar to how buprenorphine works, Vivitrol binds to brain receptors that prevent you from feeling high while easing physical pain and cravings from opiate withdrawal. Because Vivitrol is a full opioid antagonist, not a partial one like Suboxone, there is high risk for overdose if you relapse while on Vivitrol and take other opiates. This is why MAT under the supervision of clinicians is so important.

3.   Methadone

Methadone also prevents opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings by working on the same brain receptors as opioids and heroin. It’s a long-acting, full opioid agonist. Methadone is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as having a high potential for abuse. The drug must be taken in a licensed methadone clinic. People on methadone need to go through methadone detox when they decide they’re ready to discontinue this MAT. With the availability of buprenorphine and naltrexone, many healthcare professionals are moving away from methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Why Is MAT Effective in Addiction Treatment?

These days, medication assisted treatment is commonly used in addiction treatment programs to help clients with opioid addictions. When clinically appropriate for the individual, MATs can have several potential benefits, including:

Increased Time in Treatment

Research shows that people who use medication assisted treatment stay in treatment longer. Opioids are powerfully addictive drugs that cause severe physical and psychological dependence. Cravings can feel overwhelming. Because medications like buprenorphine and naltrexone help stave off cravings and withdrawal symptoms, you’re better able to focus on behavioral therapy and the underlying issues that fuel addictive behaviors, giving you a better chance at overcoming your addiction. 

Decreased Overdose Deaths

People who are on opioid agonists may be less likely to overdose. For instance, one study examined heroin overdose deaths in Baltimore, MD over 14 years. Researchers concluded that increased access to medication assisted treatment like buprenorphine played a significant role in reducing deaths by heroin overdose from 312 a year at its highest to 106 a year.

Curtailed Disease Transmission

Because people receiving medication assisted treatment are less likely to use intravenous illegal drugs, their chances of contracting potentially deadly diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C are significantly lower.

Reduced Relapse

Data shows the use of medications like buprenorphine help people stop using heroin and opioid painkillers for longer periods of time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports half of people treated with these opioid agonists were still sober 18 months later, and 61% remained sober as many as 2.5 years later. 

Improved Birth Outcomes

Behavioral therapy and medications like buprenorphine have been shown to yield less severe neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a collection of withdrawal symptoms a newborn experiences when the mother is dependent on drugs during pregnancy.

How Long Does Medication Assisted Treatment Last?

Addiction medicine specialists have varying opinions on how long you should do MAT. Research is ongoing as to MATs’ long-term use and outcomes. Some research shows that people who take MAT for one to two years see the most benefits, and that when taken for at least two years, MAT can reduce opioid overdose rates by as much as 50%. The time you take medication assisted treatment is based on your individual needs and situation. For example, if you have a history of relapse, your doctor may be more likely to prescribe you MAT for several months or years. Medical professionals must weigh the risks versus benefits of long-term MAT use with every patient. In general, MAT use will range from months to years. In some cases, doctors will prescribe MATs indefinitely.

Can You Do Medication Assisted Treatment on Your Own?

How you take medication depends on the type of MAT. You must have a prescription for MATs. Buprenorphine MATs come in sublingual tablets or films that can be taken at home. Longer-acting injectable versions are available and must be administered by a physician. Methadone must be administered in a licensed methadone treatment clinic.

Medication-assisted treatment like buprenorphine require a taper schedule (gradual decrease in dose) when you quit taking them. This is because MATs work on your brain in similar ways as illegal opioids. Stopping methadone requires medical detox in a treatment facility because it is a full opioid agonist, so withdrawal is similar as that of heroin and other opioids.

What Treatment Programs Use MAT?

Medication assisted treatment can be started at any point in addiction treatment after your doctor has assessed the levels of opioids in your system are at a safe level to begin MATs. In fact, MAT should always be taken while also receiving behavioral health care.

Depending on your situation, MATs could be prescribed in detox, residential treatment, a partial hospitalization program, or outpatient treatment. Regardless of where you are in recovery, MAT requires regular follow-ups with your prescribing physician as well as support that could include 12-step programs, sober-living residences, counseling, and behavioral health resources.

Can MAT Treat Other Addictions?

The FDA has approved medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence and alcohol abuse.

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorders include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram
  • Acamprosate

Medications to treat opioid use disorders include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine

Medication-Assisted Treatment at Vogue

Vogue Recovery Center uses MAT on a case-by-case basis as clinically appropriate. Our treatment team provides thorough medical and behavioral assessments before creating a detox and treatment plan that considers your:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Co-occurring medical conditions
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Substance use history
  • Recovery support system
  • Addiction treatment history
  • Relapse history
  • Polysubstance use
  • Current prescribed medications

If medication-assisted treatment is deemed clinically appropriate for you, our medical team will closely monitor your use and make sure you have the tools that support your individual, long-term recovery plan.

Looking for Help?

Recovering from addiction is very possible with the right treatment and internal motivation to get better. Vogue Recovery Center provides effective treatment for substance use disorders that focuses on relapse prevention. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, reach out. We’ve helped thousands of clients take back their lives from addiction. We can help you too.