Medication-assisted treatment or MAT is used to describe using specific medications, combined with substance abuse counseling and therapy, to offer a holistic (whole-person) approach to addiction treatment.
It may sound counterintuitive to treat a substance addiction with a substance; however, substance abuse medication-assisted treatment has proven very successful for many addictions. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several drugs to treat various addictions. Examples of these medications include methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone.1
The drugs used as part of a medication-assisted treatment program are FDA-approved, and medication-assisted treatment guidelines (such as dosing and type of drug used) are tailored to meet each individual’s needs.2
Methadone is a full opioid agonist because it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, causing them to activate. This action creates a chemical response that leaves the individual more vulnerable to dependency on methadone. Methadone medication-assisted treatment is still used in specific, carefully controlled programs offering medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.
Buprenorphine is an opioid drug stronger than morphine; however, its effectiveness as an opioid agonist makes it beneficial in medically assisted treatment. Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid agonist in the brain, meaning it works to keep other opioids from affecting the body by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and the nervous system.
This helps individuals in addiction treatment wean themselves off opioids while minimizing the effects of opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine is unlikely to cause the intense euphoric and sedative effects of other opioid drugs; it helps satisfy cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms. As part of a MAT substance abuse treatment program, buprenorphine addicts in recovery fully engage in therapy and other rehab activities.t
Naloxone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment centers and other medical environments to reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose. Naltrexone, like methadone, works as a total opioid agonist by blocking and reversing the effects of opioid drugs on the brain and nervous system.
Naloxone is an ingredient in Suboxone to prevent people from overdosing on Buprenorphine. It helps minimize the risk of relapse by preventing the addictive and euphoric sensations many experience when using opioids. Naltrexone is also effective at reducing the intensity of symptoms related to alcohol detox in a MAT substance abuse program.
Medically assisted treatment is used mainly for treating opioid addiction such as heroin and prescription opioids (painkillers). They help patients in a MAT recovery program manage the more severe and unpleasant symptoms of opioid detox and withdrawal.
The speed at which you progress through addiction treatment will depend on several factors. Because everyone achieves their treatment goals at different rates, there is no set time frame for how long medication-assisted treatment lasts. In general, most MAT programs last for 90 days or longer.
If you or a loved one suffers from opioid addiction, alcohol addiction, or another substance use disorder that may benefit from MAT for substance use disorders, contact a member of our admissions team to learn more about how to get medication-assisted treatment at Alta Centers.