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How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Help with Addiction?

medication assisted treatment

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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an increasingly popular approach to treating addiction, offering a combination of medication and behavioral therapies to help individuals overcome substance use disorders. In this Destination Hope blog post, we will explore what MAT is, how it works, and why it’s essential to combine medication with other recovery support services for optimal outcomes.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

MAT is a comprehensive treatment approach that uses FDA-approved medications, like buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone in conjunction with counseling, behavioral therapy, and other recovery support services to treat substance use disorders. The primary goal of MAT is to reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and stabilize brain chemistry, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery journey.

Examples of MAT Medications

There are a number of approaches and medications used in different Medication-Assisted Treatment programs. However, MAT for opioid use disorder and alcoholism are the two most common types.

Some common medications used in MAT include:

Methadone: Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction. It is typically administered daily under medical supervision at specialized clinics.

Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can be prescribed by qualified physicians in outpatient settings. Like methadone, it helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing the euphoric high associated with opioids.

Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, helping to prevent relapse. It is available in oral form or as a monthly injectable called Vivitrol.

Disulfiram and Acamprosate: These medications are used to treat alcohol use disorder. Disulfiram causes unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed, while Acamprosate helps to reduce cravings and maintain abstinence.

Benefits and Side Effects of Medication-Assisted Treatment

MAT has been shown to improve treatment retention, reduce overdose risk, and increase the likelihood of long-term recovery for individuals with substance use disorders. However, it is essential to be aware of potential side effects associated with these medications, such as drowsiness, constipation, or nausea. Always consult with a healthcare professional to discuss the appropriate treatment plan and potential risks.

Combining MAT with Other Recovery Support

While MAT can be highly effective in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, it is not a standalone solution for addiction recovery. It’s very important to understand that there is no “cure” for addiction, per se. It is a chronic illness that remains with a person for life. At least in as much as medical science understands addiction today. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, MAT is best thought of as one of several tools people can use to support their recovery. 

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To achieve lasting success, though, you must invest in changing the way you think. Changing how you think is the key to changing behaviors, which is what addiction recovery is all about. With that in mind,  individuals who choose MAT, should combine it with other recovery support services, such as:

Counseling and Therapy: Working with a therapist or counselor can help individuals address the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to their addiction. Gaining a greater understanding of not only addiction but yourself, your triggers and any underlying mental health concerns or trauma is essential for complete recovery. 

Behavioral Therapies: Techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can teach individuals healthier coping strategies and improve their overall mental health. Which approach works best for a person will depend on a number of factors, including 

Support Groups: Peer support through groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or SMART Recovery can provide valuable encouragement and connection throughout the recovery process. It may surprise you to hear this, but 12-step programs are proven to be effective in reducing relapse rates and lengthening sobriety time. Yup, you read that right. The AA program is an evidence-based measure that helps people overcome addiction. 

Residential Drug Treatment: In many cases, individuals benefit from a structured, supportive inpatient rehab environment that offers a combination of medication, therapy, and recovery support services. If you really think about it, the fact is that it is impossible to get “too much help” for addiction. You can’t recover “too successfully” or become “too sober.” But lots of people make the mistake of getting too little help for addiction. 

Real-World Examples of MAT Helping with Addiction

A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that individuals receiving buprenorphine treatment in combination with counseling had significantly better outcomes in terms of abstinence and treatment retention compared to those receiving counseling alone. This highlights the importance of combining MAT with other recovery support services for optimal results.

Medication-Assisted Treatment and Much More

Medication-Assisted Treatment can play a vital role in supporting individuals on their journey to overcoming addiction. By understanding the benefits of MAT and the importance of combining medication with counseling, behavioral therapy, and other recovery support services, individuals can make informed decisions about their treatment plan and ultimately achieve long-term sobriety and improved well-being. 

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Destination Hope has been helping people overcome addiction one day at a time for almost 20 years. We can help you or your loved one, too. All it takes is a phone call to begin. (800) 338-5770

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