Research shows that roughly 1 in 10 Americans struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction. Most people will never receive the treatment they need. Furthermore, treatment alone doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome.
That said, we’re continuing to make strides in obtaining accessible recovery methods. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) refers to combining FDA-approved medication with counseling and other behavioral treatments to sustain addiction recovery. Evidence shows MAT is clinically effective- in fact, such breakthroughs help millions of Americans each day.
Let’s get into how it works and what you should know.
Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment
The FDA has approved specific medications for alcohol and opioid use disorders. These medications work in a few ways by:
Reducing psychological cravings.
Relieving distressing withdrawal symptoms.
Triggering adverse effects if the user relapses.
MAT is not a cure for addiction- rather, it’s a tool that can supplement a working recovery. An approved physician must monitor All MAT protocols. For best results, clients need to be compliant and engaged in their medication management program.
Moreover, addiction experts recommend engaging in other treatment methods in conjunction with MAT. Such methods include:
Group psychotherapy and/or peer-led support groups.
Holistic measures (mindfulness, exercise, healthy diet).
Who Should Try MAT?
It can be challenging to measure success in recovery. Some people benefit from taking an abstinence approach, whereas others make tremendous strides with harm reduction. Other people land somewhere in the middle. With that in mind, MAT can be helpful for people who:
Struggle with chronic relapse.
Suffer from heightened cravings.
Have a co-occurring mental health condition.
Have medical complications that intensify the risk of relapse.
Cannot afford or attend long-term residential treatment and need immediate relief.
As mentioned, MAT requires a doctor’s approval. Before trying any new medication, your physician will review what you need to know. Just like with taking any prescription, there is a risk for potential side effects. You should be aware of these before beginning any new regimen.
Different Types of FDA-Approved MAT Programs
Today, there are several different MAT options available. Each treatment has various risks and benefits, and it’s important to discuss them with your doctor and care team.
Methadone is the oldest FDA-approved medication for heroin addiction. Methadone itself is an opioid, which makes this treatment somewhat controversial in the medical community, as it can be an addictive substance.
In its prescribed form, methadone provides a controlled dose of opioid medication in a tapering succession. Typically, clients must commit to visiting a methadone clinic every day to receive their dose.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. When taken as prescribed, users don’t get the same intense high as they would when taking other opioids. It can also help ease withdrawal symptoms.
Today, buprenorphine is available in several forms, including in:
Sublingual tablets (Subutex)
Sublingual films (Suboxone)
Buccal film (Bunavil)
Buprenorphine implants (Probuphine)
Recently, the FDA has approved an extended-release injection, Sublocade. Because it is injected, there is no risk for misuse, which may make this medication safer than its precedents.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that comes in either a tablet or an injectable shot. It does not contain any addictive properties.
Naltrexone works by essentially blocking the euphoric high users experience when they take opioids or drink alcohol. This adverse effect discourages continued use, which can help mitigate the risk of relapse.
Although it is rarely prescribed today, disulfiram was the first medication approved to treat alcohol use disorder. This medication works by triggering negative reactions if you drink alcohol. These reactions may include nausea, headaches, or rapid heartbeat.
Acamprosate helps people recovering from alcohol use disorder. It does not prevent withdrawal symptoms. However, it can relieve some post-acute withdrawal symptoms. It can also lessen cravings.
What About Psychiatric Medication?
Many people struggling with addiction also struggle with co-occurring disorders, like depression or anxiety. When seeking treatment, it’s imperative to focus on comprehensive recovery- that means addressing all issues in one’s life.
Psychiatric medication can be extremely helpful in:
Decreasing intrusive thoughts
Antidepressants (SSRIs) are the most commonly-prescribed psychiatric medications. They help regulate serotonin levels in the brain. They are not addictive, and they can treat a variety of mental health issues.
Is MAT Right For You Or Your Loved One?
Medication-assisted treatment can certainly support one’s recovery efforts. However, it’s essential that you discuss the right plan with your treatment team. You shouldn’t take any medication haphazardly.
At The Resurface Group, we support all evidence-based methods for recovery. We understand that our clients need to find a sustainable plan that works for them. We work hard to ensure that you feel supported during this process.
Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Contact us today!