Recovery from substance use disorders is a lifelong process. Especially in the initial stages, recovery can present challenges, including substance cravings and withdrawal. For many people in recovery, a medication-assisted treatment program is the best way to overcome these challenges and focus on their plans for the future.
How Medication-Assisted Treatment Works
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a substance abuse treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy with targeted medication. It’s often considered a “whole-person” approach that addresses a client’s physical and psychological health.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals on the treatment team work with the client to determine the best type and dose of medication for their needs. MAT can be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Medications used in MAT programs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat drug and alcohol use disorders. These medications relieve psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms after someone stops using drugs or alcohol.
Physical Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Clinical evidence has proven that MAT improves patient outcomes, especially when medication is combined with therapy. In some cases, MAT reduces the need for inpatient detox services. MAT may be particularly beneficial to clients recovering from opioid use disorder since opioids are highly addictive. However, MAT can also be effective in recovery from alcohol and other drugs.
Over time, repeated substance use causes chemical imbalances in the body and brain. The medications used in MAT are designed to restabilize the brain chemistry that substances have affected. Some medications bind to the same receptors on the brain that opioids do, working as chemical substitutes to help curb cravings. Other medications block the brain receptors that cause euphoric or “feel-good” effects after substance use. As a result, these medicines reduce cravings and limit or eliminate the effects of harmful substances.
What Medications Are Used in MAT?
One of the benefits of MAT is that clients have many different options for medication. Each client receives a thorough assessment and becomes a partner in their treatment. Doctors and other healthcare team members provide ongoing monitoring to ensure the treatment works as effectively as possible. Medicines selected for MAT are safe to use over long periods, ranging from months to years, depending on each individual’s needs.
Some of the most common MAT medications include:
- Methadone – Methadone is one of the best-known opioid replacement medications. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the feel-good effects of opioids. Even a small dose can reduce symptoms of withdrawal.
- Buprenorphine – Buprenorphine reduces opioid cravings by creating side effects that mimic opioid effects in a safer and much milder way. Buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect” that levels off after a maximum dose is reached.
- Naltrexone – Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors, suppressing cravings and eliminating feel-good effects if someone uses opioids.
Benefits of MAT in Recovery Success Rates
Medication-assisted treatment takes a harm-reduction approach, not an abstinence approach. For many clients, this method of treatment is more sustainable than abstinence; it improves the chance they will remain sober and thrive in recovery.
Research has shown that reduced rates of relapse, especially for opioid users, are one of the benefits of medication-assisted treatment. Medications can reduce substance cravings or produce unpleasant side effects if someone does take substances. These effects make clients more likely to stay away from addictive substances and stay in treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment has also been proven to:
- Reduce the rate of overdose deaths
- Reduce the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C
- Increase clients’ ability to maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes for pregnant people with substance use disorders
Additionally, MAT helps clients focus on other aspects of their recovery. Without the distraction of strong substance cravings, clients can participate more fully in therapy, counseling, and other vital elements of their treatment program.
MAT at Southern Sky Recovery
Our MAT options are part of a comprehensive, evidence-based recovery program that considers the client’s physical, mental, and behavioral health needs. Outpatient treatment models at Southern Sky Recovery include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient rehab. Each model offers a different level and intensity of care based on the client’s needs.
Medication can assist a client’s recovery, but it’s not the only aspect of treatment. Our counseling programs include a range of therapy methods that help clients examine their pasts, plan for their futures, and make better choices in the present. We offer dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), group therapy, anger management therapy, and more.
Is MAT right for you or someone you care about? Find out more about what we offer by calling 843.350.5769 or contacting us online.