What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of FDA-approved medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to comprehensively treat substance use disorder. MAT can be used for both opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Not everyone is a candidate for MAT. Prior to initiating Medication-Assisted Treatment, medical professional evaluate the patient to determine if MAT is appropriate. Factors include medical history, prior treatment experiences and history of medication compliance. If MAT is offered, an individual may decline these services and our team can continue to provide recovery support through individual and group counseling.
What are the Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Research shows that MAT helps individuals modify their behavior and encourages positive lifestyle changes for long-term success. While benefits vary based on factors including dependency on opioids, alcohol or other substances, these are some common ones:
- Reduces or eliminates cravings
- Decreases withdrawal symptoms
- Reduces the risk of relapse
- Typically eliminates the need for hospitalization
Some individuals might question whether MAT is substituting one drug for another, which is far from the case. Licensed professionals closely monitor patient use of these medications to ensure their effectiveness. Some Medication-Assisted Treatment is used short-term with the minimum effective dose and discontinued when the physician deems it appropriate. Some patients receive MAT over an extended period of time to support their ongoing recovery.
Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved medication that functions as an agonist/antagonist that blocks other narcotics while reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Together with counseling, it is an effective use of medication that treats opioid dependency. Suboxone, a brand name of buprenorphine, is administered daily by dissolving a film under the tongue. Studies have shown that people taking Suboxone demonstrate improved success with non-drug therapies. Managing the physical opioid withdrawal symptoms helps patients regain control of their life and concentrate on their counseling and recovery.
Naltrexone, an FDA-approved drug for alcohol and opioid dependence, is a non-addictive opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of other narcotics. The drug is available in a daily pill or a monthly injection by the brand name Vivitrol. Naltrexone blocks both the euphoric and sedative effects of opiates by binding and blocking opioid receptors. Studies have shown that is reported to reduce cravings. Vivitrol is a long-acting injection administered about once a month by a healthcare professional. The drug works to prevent feelings of pleasure in the brain that are produced by substances, such as prescription painkillers or heroin. Vivitrol also helps reduce a patient’s potential cravings for opioids. In most cases, they block the effects of opioids for about 28 days.
Medications for Benzodiazepine Dependence
Based on patient needs, Gateway teams can address alcohol dependency, alcohol withdrawal and withdrawal from benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”), such as Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Xanax, with additional medication treatments. Professional clinicians at Gateway can help those with mild to moderate benzodiazepine dependency stabilize in order to engage in behavioral therapy treatment programs.
Medications for Alcohol Dependence
Treatment for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, calls for a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the patient. Sometimes this approach includes MAT.
For patients with alcohol use disorder, MAT first consists of different treatment options that help them through the initial stages of withdrawal symptoms. Freedom from these symptoms enables people to participate in therapy sooner rather than later.
The ability to medically assist people with alcoholism has brought positive changes for those who attend addiction treatment programs at Gateway. One of the biggest changes is the decrease in the ASA rate, when people leave treatment against staff advice. Since MAT helps patients become more comfortable and therefore more engaged in the treatment process, they are more likely to successfully complete their program. Research has shown MAT also helps people remain alcohol-free following program completion.
Used as part of an integrated approach to alcohol addiction, along with therapy and counseling, the following medications may be used to promote sustainable recovery:
- Vivitrol – Prevents feelings of pleasure in the brain associated with substance use.
- Campral – Assists with cravings by restoring the balance of chemicals in the brain.
- Librium – Reduces anxiety, insomnia and other withdrawal symptoms.