Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in California - ARISE Treatment

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) refers to the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. This approach is thought to provide a more comprehensive, whole-patient approach to recovery.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that the combination of medication and counseling can successfully treat addictions and help people sustain recovery after rehab.[1]

The most common use of MAT is for the treatment of opioid use disorders or addictions to drugs like heroin, prescription painkillers, and fentanyl, however, medications are sometimes used to treat alcohol use disorder, as well. Today, MAT is recognized as a highly effective, evidence-based approach to treating opioid and alcohol addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medications Used in MAT Recovery Programs

There are many different types of medication that may be used in medication-assisted treatment programs in California. All of the medications used are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some medications are approved to treat both alcohol and opioid use disorder, while others can only treat one condition.

Each medication works differently and may not be right for everyone. Please consult with your physician before starting any of the following medications as using them improperly can lead to adverse side effects.

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

In 2020, more than 2.7 million people aged 12 and older were estimated to have an opioid use disorder (OUD).[2] Opioid addiction can be extremely difficult to overcome, but it is possible with individualized treatment. Certain medications can make achieving sobriety from opioids easier, such as:[3]


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist-antagonist that suppresses and reduces opioid cravings. It can also be given during withdrawal to alleviate opioid detox symptoms. Buprenorphine comes in a few different formulations, including:

  • Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) – A sublingual film that is given during detox and treatment to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings. This medication is taken on a daily basis. Long-term use may result in physical dependence, so patients are usually tapered off of Suboxone slowly.
  • Subutex (buprenorphine) – A pill that is used during detox and treatment to reduce symptoms of withdrawal and opioid cravings. Like Suboxone, Subutex is a daily pill that may cause physical dependence after long-term use.
  • Sublocade (buprenorphine injection) – A monthly subcutaneous injection that reduces opioid cravings for 28-30 days. Because the shot is only administered in a medical office by a licensed healthcare professional, there is little risk for abuse and addiction when using this medication.


Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptors, reduces opioid cravings, and prevents the euphoric effects of opioid drugs. Unlike buprenorphine, naltrexone will not cause physical dependence. Patients can stop taking this medication without having symptoms of withdrawal. Naltrexone is used after patients are fully detoxed and it comes in two different formulations:

  • ReVia – A daily naltrexone pill
  • Vivitrol – A monthly intramuscular injection


Methadone is an opioid medication that reduces cravings and treats symptoms of withdrawal. Practitioners typically use buprenorphine instead of methadone because of methadone’s abuse potential. Methadone is only available as a daily pill–there is no injectable form of the drug.

Each of these medications is most effective when combined with an addiction treatment program.

Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol is the most widely abused addictive substance in the United States. While many people can drink in moderation and do so safely, others cannot. Approximately 15 million people ages 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).[4]

During alcohol detox, medications like benzodiazepines can be prescribed to treat symptoms of withdrawal, but they don’t play a role in treating alcoholism. However, there are FDA-approved medications that can be used during treatment and in recovery to help people stop drinking after they have detoxed completely.

Medications that are approved to treat AUD are:[3]

  • Acamprosate (Campral) – Acamprosate can treat alcohol cravings and prevent alcohol relapse. It is available in the form of a pill that must be taken every day after detoxing.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) – Disulfiram is a daily tablet that causes unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and headache if it is used with alcohol. The medication can reduce the desire to drink.
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol) – Naltrexone is the only medication that is approved by the FDA to treat both AUD and OUD. Vivitrol is typically used in the treatment of alcoholism and it can block the feelings of intoxication if a person drinks alcohol. Naltrexone is thought to reduce the motivation to drink.

Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are all meant to be used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy.

Advantages of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Research has proven MAT clinically effective by several measures. Firstly, it reduces the need for inpatient detox services.[1] Many people are hesitant to check in to a detox or rehab center because they don’t want to go to inpatient care. Without inpatient rehab, many of these individuals relapse or are unable to sustain sobriety. Medications can change that, though.

By alleviating symptoms of withdrawal, reducing cravings, and working to stabilize brain chemistry, people taking MAT medications may be able to recover successfully on an outpatient basis.

Other benefits of medication-assisted treatment include:

  • MAT patients are more likely to stay in rehab and complete their treatment program rather than leave rehab early. Rather than battling cravings or temptation, MAT allows patients to feel better faster and fully engage in treatment.
  • The use of medications can provide patient survival by decreasing illicit opioid use and criminal activity.
  • Patients often experience fewer challenges when it comes to finding employment and keeping a job. This is partially due to the fact that they are more likely to stay sober and have a higher chance of performing well at work if they aren’t under the influence.
  • MAT can improve birth outcomes among women who are pregnant and struggling with addiction. Some medications are safe to take during pregnancy and come with fewer risks than alcohol or illicit drugs.
  • By promoting abstinence, medications and therapies can lower the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other transmissible illnesses via unsafe sex or injection practices.

Speak with a team member at Arise Treatment Center today to see if medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in Southern California is right for you.

Common Misconceptions About Using MAT in Recovery

Despite the powerful benefits of MAT, there are some common misconceptions surrounding this addiction treatment approach. The main misconception is that MAT is not recovery–it is replacing one drug with another and doesn’t count as being sober, but this idea is false and stigmatizing.

Medication-assisted treatment is evidence-based and backed by years of research, clinical trials, and long-term studies. While it may not be right for everyone, it can save lives.

Recovery can look different for everyone, and for many people it involves using medications to achieve a healthier, sober lifestyle.

Some of the medications used in MAT can cause physical dependence, but it is important to understand that there is a difference between addiction and physical dependence. Physical dependence develops after regular use of all types of prescription medications–even when taken as directed.

Addiction, however, is a disease characterized by impulsive and dangerous substance abuse patterns. If a person is able to take medications as prescribed rather than abuse harmful, illicit street drugs, they aren’t addicted–they have recovered.

Medication-Assisted Treatment as Part of Your Recovery

Medications can alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and stabilize brain chemistry, but they can’t keep you sober forever. Long-term recovery requires a lot of inner work, meaning you must engage in therapy to uncover and treat the root cause of your addiction.

Whether you started abusing drugs and alcohol due to trauma, mental illness, or situational concerns, these types of things must be addressed during treatment. Medications are only one part of recovery, and they are only effective when combined with comprehensive treatment.

During medication-assisted treatment in California, you may take medications to support abstinence, but you will also participate in group and individual therapy sessions and other therapeutic activities. Therapies help you heal and develop healthy coping skills while therapeutic activities like yoga, meditation, and support groups promote whole-person healing.

Throughout treatment, you can expect to have regular appointments with your doctor to discuss your medication adherence, side effects, and how well the medication is working. When you are ready, your doctor may wean you off of medications completely. However, many people continue taking MAT medications for several months or years in recovery.

After treatment, whether you continue taking medications or not, it’s crucial to continue managing your addiction so you can stay in recovery. You can do this by attending regular 12-step meetings or 12-step alternatives, establishing a sober support network, and attending continued counseling sessions. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you feel as though your recovery is slipping through your fingers.

Find Out if Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in California is 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.




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