Opioid addiction is a serious issue, affecting 16 million people worldwide and over 2 million people in America.
If you or a loved one deals with an opioid use disorder, you know just how difficult it can be to recover. Unfortunately, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms often cause people to relapse in early recovery. As the opioid crisis has evolved, fentanyl is causing tens of thousands of fatal overdoses each year–making relapse incredibly dangerous for people suffering from opioid addiction.
One of the most effective approaches for treating opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines behavioral therapy and counseling with the use of FDA-approved medications to soothe withdrawal symptoms and limit cravings. MAT removes some of the biggest triggers for relapse.
Unfortunately, because MAT uses medications, some of which can be addictive if they are abused, some people believe that it is just “trading one addiction for another.” However, this is a dangerous and false misconception, as MAT is a life-saving form of opioid addiction treatment.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Medication-assisted treatment is a type of addiction treatment that involves the use of medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In addition to medications, MAT uses behavioral therapy, group counseling, and peer support to provide clients with a well-rounded foundation of recovery.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT programs provide their clients with the following benefits:
- Improved patient survival
- Increased retention in treatment
- Decreased illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- Increased patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
- Improved birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
- Lessened risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by lowering your chances of relapse
During MAT, some medications may be used during and/or after detox. For example, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are used during detox to limit your symptoms and prevent you from experiencing opioid cravings. On the other hand, medications like naltrexone are only intended to be used after detox to help you stay sober by preventing you from experiencing cravings or getting high on opioids by blocking the receptors in your brain.
Are You Sober If You’re on MAT?
If you have ever considered entering a medication-assisted treatment program, you might have heard some people criticizing MAT by calling it “trading one addiction for another.” While this is a valid concern, it is a complete misconception about how these medications work. The medications used during MAT will not provide you with psychoactive effects, preventing you from developing an addiction to them, as long as you take them as prescribed.
If you are enrolled in a MAT program, taking your medications, and refraining from abusing opioids, you are sober. The belief that taking medication to keep your substance use disorder under control is a harmful misconception that can cost someone their life. Using MAT medications is just like taking a pill for your diabetes or a mental health condition.
The South Dakota Department of Health and Social Services reports that MAT medications do not get you high. Instead, they:
- Block the euphoric effects of opioids if you relapse
- Relieve cravings during recovery
- Normalize your brain chemistry
- Normalize physical functions to prevent withdrawal symptoms
Taking MAT medications to recover from opioid use disorder does not prevent you from being able to call yourself sober. These medications can be the difference between life and death for some individuals with severe opioid use disorders. Additionally, individuals receiving MAT medications will still receive traditional methods of addiction treatment like behavioral therapy and learning healthy coping mechanisms.
MAT may not be right for everyone. You should always consult with a professional before deciding on what route of recovery is best for you.
How to Talk to Loved Ones Who Do Not Understand MAT
If your loved one is weary about you participating in medication-assisted treatment, there are ways to make them feel more comfortable about the entire process. For some people, it can seem counterproductive to take medications to overcome an addiction. This can be especially hard to grasp when someone is unaware of how MAT works.
The first step in making your loved one comfortable with MAT is helping them become educated on how the process works. You should inform them about how the medications affect the brain, why they are safe, and provide them with information about the other aspects of MAT like behavioral therapy and aftercare services.
If your loved one is still unsure after learning more about medication-assisted treatment, you could bring them into your therapist’s office or the MAT program itself to have them discuss the process with a professional. Sometimes, people need to hear the information straight from a professional before they will fully trust that MAT medications are safe to take.
Get Connected With a Top-Rated Medication-Assisted Treatment Program Today
If you or a loved one require professional treatment for opioid use disorder, medication-assisted treatment might be right for you. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a powerful tool that can be used to combat the opioid epidemic, reduce heavy drinking in people with alcohol use disorder, and help people who are struggling with addiction achieve a higher quality of life. While medications treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings, therapy and support groups can help you establish a foundation for your recovery.
To find out if you are eligible for MAT, speak with an admissions coordinator at Arise Treatment Center. Our team is dedicated to helping you find a treatment program that meets your needs and can set you up for long-term recovery. Call now to get started.
- The National Library of Medicine: Opioid Use Disorder, Retrieved July 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553166/
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Medications for Substance Use Disorders, Retrieved July 2023 From https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
- The South Dakota Departments of Health and Social Services: Facts About Medication-Assisted Treatment, Retrieved July 2023 From https://dss.sd.gov/formsandpubs/docs/BH/BHAO10_MAT_Brochure.pdf