Medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, is a treatment option for those in recovery that uses FDA approved drugs to combat the effects of quitting more harmful drugs. This treatment plan has become an essential part of dealing with the opioid epidemic that the United States is currently facing.
While MAT can be essential to some as they go through recovery, it is not a cure for addiction. MAT should be used in combination with other methods of treatment, such as therapy to help deal with the addiction disorder. While many of the medications used in MAT options can be addictive themselves, the FDA believes MAT to be a safe and effective way to treat addiction when following the proper instructions set by medical professionals.
Recovery can often be a painful process for many people due to the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting. Opioid withdrawal, specifically, can be an incredibly arduous experience for anyone to go through. Medication-assisted treatment allows for those in recovery to lessen their withdrawal symptoms and cravings to prevent relapse.
Some see stigmatization with medication-assisted treatment because of the belief users are simply “trading one addiction for another”. However, it must be noted that as long as the medications are used as intended they are incredibly safe. The FDA has approved MAT options for as little as one year to up to lifetime treatment options.
Studies have shown that an increase of MAT options in combination with other methods of therapy does great work to reduce mortality associated with addiction and increase the retention of those in recovery. It is also proven to lessen the use of illegal opioid use on the street. With how serious this current opioid epidemic is, a lot of work must be done to destigmatize the use of medication-assisted treatment options and increase their use in the recovery community.
Methadone is a man-made opioid similar to morphine used to reduce the cravings associated with opioid addiction and lessen withdrawal symptoms. It can also be used to treat severe chronic pain. Methadone also blocks the effects of other opioids such as heroin or codeine.
When being used in medically-assisted treatments, methadone can only be administered by certified opioid treatment centers. Methadone clinics are set up to allow those in recovery from opioid addictions to receive doses of methadone under the supervision of medical staff. It is recommended that methadone be used for at least a year to lessen the risks of relapse. After the first year, treatment may be extended or the use of methadone can begin to be tapered off to avoid withdrawal.
Methadone is considered to be a Schedule II drug, meaning while it has a valid medical use it is still considered to be high risk to be abused. Still, methadone is considered to be completely safe when used as prescribed.
Suboxone is a man-made drug used to treat opioid addiction order, similar to weakened methadone. Suboxone is a combination of the drugs naltrexone and buprenorphine, which can also be individually prescribed to treat opioid addiction disorder at times.
Unlike methadone, suboxone can be prescribed by physicians outside of certified opioid treatment centers. This allows suboxone to be more accessible to those in need than methadone often is.
Suboxone is often prescribed in the form of strips of a thin film that are placed under the tongue and dissolved. Like methadone, Suboxone binds to receptors of the brain that reduce cravings and lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. Suboxone is considered a partial opioid agonist, meaning while it does have a minimal effect on the opioid receptors of the brain it is not an opioid itself.
For those who are in recovery from alcoholism, acamprosate can be prescribed to lessen the cravings associated with alcohol addiction. For the drug to be effective, the person must have already stopped drinking. Acamprosate does not help someone quit drinking or lessen the withdrawal symptoms associated with it. If someone has already quit drinking for several days, it can be useful in lessening the cravings after that.
Acamprosate is usually prescribed on the fifth day after quitting drinking and can take about a week to become fully effective. It is given out in tablet form and should be taken three times a day. The most common side effect of taking Acamprosate are stomach problems, including nausea, diarrhea, or loss of appetite.
Naltrexone is one of the drugs found in Suboxone and can be used to treat both opioid and alcohol addiction disorders. It commonly is prescribed as a tablet to be taken once daily. Naltrexone works by blocking the euphoric effects caused by drugs such as opioids and alcohol.
Unlike acamprosate and disulfiram, Naltrexone can be used by those who are drinking to try to quit. While Naltrexone cannot help lessen the physical dependence of alcoholism or treat the symptoms of withdrawal, it does work to make the effects of drinking drunk or high less desirable. This can help people make the first steps to recovery and avoid relapse over time.
Disulfiram is a medication used to treat the cravings associated with alcoholism. It is often prescribed in tablet form and taken once daily. Disulfiram works by shutting down the body’s ability to process alcohol.
While Disulfiram does not actively treat the symptoms associated with withdrawal, it creates an extremely negative reaction if even the smallest amount of alcohol is consumed. This reaction is designed to enforce better habits and decrease the cravings that come along with recovery.
Within ten minutes of drinking even a small amount of alcohol, the user may experience vomiting, chest pain, headache, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms can last for hours.
MAT options are incredibly important for those seeking help with recovery. If other methods have been used unsuccessfully in the past, MAT can be the last hope for people searching for help with addiction disorders.
MAT must be one piece of the larger recovery plan. Medications can greatly help with the cravings and withdrawal associated with recovery but the underlying issues that cause our addiction must also be addressed. Dual-diagnosis treatment is designed to both help you through your recovery process while also working at the mental health issues at the root cause of addiction disorders.
Medically-assisted treatment can be available to those interested in outpatient plans as well as those who prefer to look in rehabilitation facilities. At Create Recovery Los Angeles we believe that everyone’s plan must be individualized to them, to find what works best for you now and in the future.
Please call us at (855)-518-0222 to learn more.