Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), What You Should Know and How It May Help You

March 16, 2020

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), What You Should Know and How It May Help You

The first steps toward recovery are always the hardest ones to take. If you are finding it difficult to stop using, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery offers extensive individual and group treatment. Although no single pathway to recovery is right for every individual, research has shown that seeking recovery from substance abuse problems are more successful when combined with the right medications, professional counseling, and a stable support system. Through a comprehensive treatment system, a strong team of medical professionals, and social supports, there is hope. Recovery from addiction is possible.

What is MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is a comprehensive and highly effective approach that uses federally approved medications alongside therapy and counseling to address behavioral issues, maintain long-term recovery, and prevent relapse. The Food and Drug Administration or FDA is responsible for protecting public health and providing information regarding all FDA-regulated products. The focus is on providing well-rounded care in the “whole patient” approach—health care providers and the patient develop an awareness and willingness for collaboration.

Counseling is an integral component to medication-assisted treatment and can be very helpful for those suffering from substance abuse disorders or addictions. Health care providers tailor medications to treat opioid addiction and address cravings and withdrawals—the ill feelings one can have due to lack of drugs in the body.

Withdrawal is a staple of addiction and accompanied with the intense cravings, recovery alone can be daunting and difficult. For those struggling with addiction, research shows that medication-assisted treatment’s combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat disorders and promote a healthy and sustainable recovery.

What is Addiction and How Can MAT Help?

When drug or alcohol use turns from an occasional recreational activity into a habit that causes problems in a person’s day-to-day life, it may become a substance use disorder or an addiction. Addiction is a chronic brain condition that distorts someone’s thinking; something that started as pleasurable turns into something you feel you cannot live without. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors define addiction as the irresistible craving for a drug. These cravings are a normal occurrence for those struggling to get and stay clean. However, cravings can interfere with treatment and increase the risk of relapse.

Medication-assisted treatment has proven very successful in helping to fight cravings and promote abstinence. The addicted person may also experience a severe loss of control, making it difficult to refuse using the drug, even though its use may become harmful to the body and the people around them. People addicted to substances usually need to seek treatment to help with the addiction. While many people may feel they can recover from long-term drug addiction without the aid of medication, they may relapse or go back to using drugs, without medication-assisted treatment.

Medication-assisted treatment can help a person stop constantly thinking or obsessing over the problem drug. It can also help limit cravings and withdrawals considerably. MAT allows the person to focus on returning to and maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of addiction.

Symptoms of Withdrawal from Drugs or Alcohol

When a person becomes addicted to illegal or prescription drugs and stops using abruptly, they often experience withdrawal symptoms, which can be quite difficult to manage alone and may even be life-threatening. Different drugs and substances are absorbed by and remain in the body for varying amounts of time. Symptoms of drug withdrawal and the length of that withdrawal depend on the particular type and length of drug addiction. The level of dependency on any substance influences the severity and duration of substance withdrawal. Other factors that influence withdrawal are, method of abuse, type of substance abused, amount taken each time, family history, and health and medical factors.

Listed below are a few withdrawal symptoms and potential timelines for the major targets of substance abuse:

  • Heroin and prescription painkillers: flu-like symptoms that could last for an average of 5 days
  • Benzodiazepines: anxiety and/or seizures lasting weeks or months in some cases
  • Cocaine: depression and restlessness lasting about 7-10 days
  • Alcohol: tremors and/or seizures lasting three to seven days

Other symptoms of withdrawal not tailored to any specific substance include:

  • Anxiety, irritability, self-harm, or restlessness;
  • Fatigue and muscle pain;
  • Gagging, nausea, vomiting, or stomach cramps;
  • Depression, paranoia, or delirium;
  • Seizures, sensitivity to pain, slurred speech, teeth chattering; and
  • Hallucinations, insomnia, nightmares, or difficulty sleeping.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right For You?

If you are struggling, know someone who is struggling, or has struggled in the past with substance abuse, there are many options for recovery. Decisions made about the treatment of drug abuse are the responsibility of you, your health care provider, and recovery team. To find out which medication-assisted treatment program is best for you, make an appointment with your doctor or health care provider and ask about MAT. When medication-assisted treatment starts depends solely on the type of medication used. An experienced recovery team will tailor the MAT program to meet the needs of each individual patient. Medications used in the MAT program are FDA approved and operate to normalize the receptors in the brain that create substance dependency and lead to substance abuse.

If you are misusing prescription pain medications, using narcotics, heroin, other opioid drugs, or alcohol and are thinking about seeking help for a substance abuse problem, or considering medications that help with recovery, then medication-assisted treatment might be a suitable recovery program to discuss with your health care provider. If any of the statements below apply, then a recovery facility such as New Vitae Wellness and Recovery could be the right place for you:

  • I have been told medications may help me stop using opioids.
  • I recognize or have been told I am suffering from symptoms of withdrawal.
  • I am feeling the pressure to stop using.
  • I want more information for a loved one or someone I care about.
  • I have tried to cut down or stop using many times before.
  • I don’t want to stop using now, but someday I will.
  • I have chronic pain and substance use has become a problem.
  • I am pregnant and want to stop using.
  • My doctor has recommended I start medication for my addiction.
  • I am reluctant to use medications because I want to try this on my own.

The choice to include monitored medication as part of your recovery is a personal medical decision. Further conversation with your healthcare provider can provide you with medication options and a safe space to talk about your concerns. Continued abuse of alcohol or drugs can interfere with motivation and the reward chemistry of the brain, which can result in drug cravings and dependency. Research shows that when people include a medication prescribed to treat substance abuse disorder as part of their recovery plan, their chances of success increase.

MAT for Opioid Use

Medications used to treat opioid dependency and addiction to opioids are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. People may safely take medications used in MAT for months or even several years. Opioid addiction is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Discuss plans to start taking medication to treat your addiction and start recovery with your health care provider.

Many People Suffer from Opioid Use Disorder

Opioids are highly addictive. MAT is the primary tool for combatting opioid addiction. Many individuals first use opioids when they are prescribed following a serious injury such as a broken bone or for something more routine like the removal of wisdom teeth. Some common prescriptions of opioids are Codeine (Tylenol with Codeine), Fentanyl, Hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lorcet), Morphine and Oxycodone (Percocet or OxyContin). The misuse of opioids among teens, young adults, and adults, exists for a variety of reasons: to party or cope with stress, anxiety, PTSD, or a pre-existing condition or injury. Among Veteran patients, greater opioid use and misuse of opioids can result in the increased, long-term risk of suicide. New Vitae Wellness and Recovery offers programs for any individual struggling with addiction.

Your health care team may suggest medication-assisted treatment to treat the misuse of opioids and other drugs or alcohol. The Department of Health & Human Services has identified opioid addiction as a national crisis. An estimated 130 people a day die from the misuse of opioid-related drug overdoses. Those who misuse prescription pain relievers such as opioids may use them:

  • to relieve pain;
  • to relax, reduce stress, or relieve tension;
  • to see what the drug is like;
  • to get high or feel good;
  • to help with insomnia or lack of sleep;
  • to help with overwhelming feelings or emotions;
  • to increase or decrease the effects or potencies of other drugs;
  • because the individual is “hooked” or “has to have” the drug; and
  • other reasons.

Misuse of drugs can cause the brain to change and associate the drug with necessity—this can lead to addiction. A person who becomes addicted to drugs can express using them for any one of the reasons listed above and may need to seek treatment to begin recovery. Though MAT’s primary treatment focus is on the usage of opioids, MAT may be the best course of treatment for you if you suffer from another substance addiction.

MAT for Alcohol Use

The most common FDA approved medications used to treat alcohol use disorder are disulfiram, which acts as a deterrent to using alcohol, acamprosate, which reduces symptoms of withdrawal, and naltrexone which reduces cravings and relapse. Though none of these drugs provide a cure for the disorder, they are most effective in people who participate in the MAT program. You can find success in your recovery through extensive counseling and therapy alongside medication treatment. For more on alcohol use disorder click here.

MAT for Smoking

Two FDA approved medications used to treat tobacco addition are bupropion and varenicline. Both medications are used to prohibit cravings and limit withdrawal symptoms. For more information on how MAT can help treat tobacco addiction, click here.

Misunderstandings about Medication-Assisted Treatment

In seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder, you may encounter misconceptions commonly spread throughout the recovery and medical community concerning medication-assisted treatment. Understand that not every course of treatment works for every individual. Recovery is attainable through different avenues of treatment. However, research has shown that individuals who pair counseling and therapy with medications to treat their addictions have an easier time maintaining long-term recovery and a healthy lifestyle.

Within the recovery community and elsewhere, you may hear that substituting one addictive drug for another is not the correct form of recovery. That is not how MAT works. Taking medications to treat addictions to substances is like taking medications for another chronic disease or illness. When used according to the instructions of health care professionals, the medication will not create a new addiction. The medications used in medication-assisted treatment help individuals assimilate back into society and obtain a healthy life style.

The Cost of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Situations and costs of medication-assisted treatment will vary according to the individual seeking recovery. The cost of MAT does vary depending on the medication and substance abuse disorder.  While looking for treatment options for substance abuse disorders, you may need to consider this. If you have questions about the costs of medication-assisted treatment, do not hesitate to ask your health care provider or health insurance provider.

How New Vitae Can Help You

New Vitae = New Life.

Finding the right treatment facility for addiction is crucial to the recovery process. For those who suffer from behavioral health challenges or addiction, the use of medication may help them achieve long-term recovery. New Vitae designs and provides various types of behavioral health support systems including Residential, Partial Hospitalization, Traditional Outpatient, and Intensive Outpatient services that promote recovery from addictions, personal wellness, and meet the needs of every individual. New Vitae ensures consistent support from their staff and can aid in creating positive changes that instill a healthy mindset and maintain long-term recovery inside the community of the program and out in the world.

Some people think that addiction is about a lack of willpower, or a lack of desire to get better and overcome addiction. People even believe that someone with a drug, alcohol, or substance abuse problem simply does not want to get better and could easily quit on their own if they tried. New Vitae understands that this could not be further from the truth—addiction is complex and not as forgiving as people realize. To battle a substance abuse addiction, it is important to value the lives of every individual and help in the process of recovery.

You can visit New Vitae at one of its several locations. For more information on New Vitae’s Wellness and Recovery programs, medication-assisted treatment, and your options for substance abuse recovery, contact us online or by phone 610-965-9021 today.

“Mt. Trexler Manor has helped me more than any other place.  I have a great doctor at New Vitae.”

- John B. (former resident)