Many medical and addiction specialists consider medication-assisted treatment (MAT) the most effective type of treatment for opioid and other drug addiction. There is an overwhelming amount of research showing MAT is relatively safe and effective for people with opioid addiction. Despite the evidence that MAT is one of the best tools we have for combating drug addiction, there are still many myths about this type of treatment.
This article will discuss and debunk some of the most persistent myths about medication-assisted treatment. If you or someone you love struggle with drug abuse or addiction and require treatment, reach out to the Arise Treatment Center now to explore our MAT programs or schedule an intake assessment.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
The primary goal of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is to taper people off of prescription and illicit drugs while preventing the uncomfortable symptoms of drug withdrawal.
People in a MAT program take medications to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, prevent cravings, and wean themselves off of harmful drugs. MAT is designed to be used in tandem with counseling and behavioral therapy to facilitate a whole-person approach to recovery.
Methadone and buprenorphine are two of the most commonly used drugs in MAT programs. These drugs work similarly to opioids in the brain but do not cause intense euphoria that causes persistent drug-seeking behaviors. Taking these medications can allow people to function in their daily lives and participate fully in addiction treatment.
Debunking 10 Myths About Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Misconceptions and uninformed opinions about medication-assisted treatment have made their way to the general public. Here, we will debunk ten common myths about medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
1. Myth: MAT is only for the most severe addictions.
Some people may believe that medication-assisted treatment is only appropriate for the most severe of addictions, or only for addiction to illicit drugs like heroin. However, medication-assisted treatment can be effective for mild, moderate, or severe opioid addictions, including prescription painkillers.
2. Myth: MAT increases the risk of overdose.
This dangerous misconception can keep people from getting the life-saving treatment they need. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that overdose deaths were reduced by 38% for those taking buprenorphine and 59% for those taking methadone. The bottom line: MAT is the most effective form of treatment for people with opioid use disorder and can significantly reduce the likelihood of fatal overdose.
3. Myth: MAT requires people to replace their addiction with a different one.
This harmful myth stems from the idea that people need to take methadone or buprenorphine regularly. However, people in medication-assisted treatment are not taking these drugs to get high–they are taking them to prevent withdrawal symptoms and gain the stability they need to participate in treatment.
4. Myth: Medication-assisted treatment is only for short-term use.
Research has shown that MAT that includes methadone maintenance is more effective than treatment that relies on detoxification. In many cases, people in MAT programs can remain on medications as long as they are helpful.
5. Myth: Medication-assisted treatment prevents “real” recovery.
While some people advocate that methadone or buprenorphine treatment is a “crutch” that prevents people from truly moving on from an addiction, addiction specialists know that MAT programs eliminate one of the most significant barriers preventing people from getting help: the fear of withdrawal. MAT program participants get real, meaningful help that allows them to participate in treatment without fear of withdrawal or relapse.
6. Myth: Insurance won’t cover MAT.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance companies to cover treatment costs related to mental health and addiction. In most cases, medication-assisted programs are covered by insurance. Insurance plans can vary, so it’s crucial to verify the details of your specific plan before starting treatment.
7. Myth: Medication-assisted treatment is expensive.
In cases where insurance won’t cover the cost of MAT, this type of treatment is still affordable for most. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that the medications used in MAT programs cost between $115-$126 per week.
8. Myth: MAT is inferior to abstinence.
Many people hold the belief that abstinence is the gold standard and that anything else is an inferior option. Some addiction treatment programs advocate for 100% abstinence. However, research shows that medication-assisted programs are much more effective than abstinence-only programs. Participating in a MAT program provides the support and treatment that can lead to complete abstinence in the future.
9. Myth: Medication-assisted treatment is unsafe during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advocates that MAT is the safest and most effective form of treatment for pregnant women with an opioid use disorder. Opioid use can cause severe, irreversible harm to a developing fetus, and pregnant women must seek the most effective form of treatment available to stop using these harmful drugs. MAT has been shown to improve the birth outcomes among women who have opioid use disorders and are pregnant.
10. Myth: Cold turkey is more effective than MAT.
Some people believe that those living with opioid addiction must go “cold turkey” to get the drugs out of their system. However, quitting drugs abruptly can lead to excruciating withdrawal symptoms that linger for days or weeks.
Most people who attempt to go cold turkey fail. Medication-assisted treatment reduces cravings and prevents other withdrawal symptoms, allowing people to participate in treatment to address the physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects of their substance use.
Find Medication-Assisted Treatment
Don’t let the myths about medication-assisted treatment prevent you from getting the most effective treatment available. Learn more about how MAT can help you recover from addiction and embrace a healthier lifestyle. Reach out to the team at the Arise Treatment Center now to learn more or to schedule an intake evaluation.