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Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an effective treatment option for certain substance use disorders. MAT is the use of medication in combination with behavioral therapies for addiction.

What is MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medication(s) in combination with behavioral and other therapies to treat substance use disorders.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used.

Detoxing is different from MAT. Why? The detox process occurs as an early intervention right after admissions, while medical-assisted treatment can begin after successful detox. The medications prescribed will help to stave off cravings and remaining withdrawal symptoms, while helping patients maintain sobriety.

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MAT for Substance Use

Medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse is a successful method for assisting patients through the challenging treatment process.

To treat addiction, clients cannot rely solely on medication-assisted treatments. They must use MAT in conjunction with behavioral therapies to serve the whole person rather than just symptoms. For those whose doctors recommend that they complete MAT programs, they will do so at inpatient treatment facilities where they have been admitted. However, they can continue MAT after being discharged.

In medication-assisted opioid treatment programs, for example, clients receive medication such as Vivitrol to make it easier on their bodies and minds while withdrawing from the substance. Patients with a history of opioid use will also receive counseling services.

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    SAMHSA states that “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several different medications to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders MAT medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body. Medications used for MAT are evidence-based treatment options and do not just substitute one drug for another.”

    Does medication-assisted treatment work for substance abusers?

    “We know what works,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force. “We can point to states where making access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been a priority, and the mortality rates are going down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provisional numbers yet again underscore that this epidemic will not be reversed until we deal with access issues and stigma associated with opioid misuse.”

    Medications for Alcohol Use

    According to a 2019 national survey, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older experienced alcohol use disorder (AUD).

    Alcohol abuse in the United States is excessive; therefore, medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use is commonplace at addiction treatment facilities.

    Alcohol medication-assisted treatment is a must for individuals who are not able to successfully move through treatment programs without severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

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    Pros and Cons of MAT

    There are advantages and disadvantages to any type of treatment program. Physical, psychological, and emotional risks come with any medical intervention. It is helpful for patients to discuss their options with their treatment team. Together, they can decide if the benefits of medical-assisted treatment outweigh the risks.

    Pros of MAT include:

    • MAT (combined medication and behavioral therapy) is more effective than one or the other in clients who are addicted to substances. MAT includes a whole-person approach.
    • MAT can decrease the time in inpatient treatment by assisting with withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can deter individuals from being more active and motivated during treatment.
    • MAT is affordable and accessible when looking at the big picture of treatment costs.
    • MAT is available to patients after they discharge.

    Several drawbacks associated with MAT are:

    • MAT medications can have unfavorable side effects.
    • Discharged patients taking MAT medications may misuse or abuse them.
    • The start of MAT must occur at a certified facility with licensed medical staff.

    Despite the drawbacks, the benefits are worth it for most patients.

    Success of MAT

    Evidence of medication-assisted treatment success is available. According to the CDC’s list of evidence-based strategies:

    MAT is a proven pharmacological treatment for opioid use disorder. The backbone of this treatment is FDA-approved medications. Agonist drugs activate opioid receptors in the brain, preventing painful opioid withdrawal symptoms without causing euphoria; naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids. MAT is effective at reducing use and helping people to lead normal lives.

    In 2015, the first long-term, follow-up study on the effectiveness of MAT was published (Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study). Results showed that more than half of participants reported being abstinent from drugs 18 months after the study, and after 3.5 years, the percentage jumped to 61%.

    There continues to be ongoing research throughout the U.S., as well as the world, on medication-assisted treatments and their efficacy for those who suffer from drug and alcohol use.

    How Arista Incorporates MAT

    Arista Recovery has a medication-assisted treatment program for individuals to safely and comfortably begin their journey to recovery.

    -Tailored MAT programs to meet each individual patient’s needs

    -Narrate & guide the patient through the journey of sustained recovery

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