Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) — What It Is and Who It’s for

January 12, 2022

You may have heard of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) but may not know what it is or who it’s for. Many people in recovery ask if MAT will help them stay sober long term. MAT helps many addicts and can even be seen as a lifesaver for many. 

MAT is a therapy that makes use of medication, behavioral therapy, and counseling to help people with substance abuse disorder. It’s probably most well known for helping those with opioid addiction, but it can help with addictions to other substances as well.

These medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They can aid in normalizing a person’s brain chemistry while also reducing their physiological cravings. 

Sometimes these medications are used just while a person is going through detox; however, they are also prescribed long-term.

In this article you’ll read about:

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay sober, keep reading.

What Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Is

MAT therapy involves the use of medication to help people overcome their problems with substance abuse. These medications specifically help with a person's physical cravings for their drug of choice.

MAT is not trading one substance problem with a different substance problem. However, it’s common for people to think that.

MAT therapy is about much more than the use of medication. It’s a well-rounded approach that can help people navigate life clean and sober.

Behavioral therapy and counseling are an integral part of MAT. Counseling can help a person get to the root of their addiction so that relapse is less likely.

So why is there a need for medication? 

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It can grab anyone. People may use substances casually without the intention of getting addicted. Some narcotics are prescribed by a doctor, and the person taking them starts out by “taking them as directed.”

Then a doctor may stop prescribing this medication, and through no fault of their own, the person who was taking the medication becomes addicted. Then a real problem presents itself.

Withdrawal.

Withdrawal is what a person goes through when they stop taking an addictive substance that they’ve become physically dependent on.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

Sounds pretty terrible, right? 

You may find yourself physically dependent on a substance, and you may want to stop, but the pain of withdrawal is almost unbearable. The fear of withdrawal may keep you in the grips of addiction for years. 

MAT can help you get through detox as pain-free as possible. For most, it will still be an uncomfortable process, but it’s much more bearable. MAT makes the idea of getting sober less scary for many people.

Once a person gets through detox with minimal withdrawal symptoms, they have a great chance at grabbing ahold of the tools of recovery.

Types of MAT Medications 

There are different medications associated with MAT.

They include:

Vivitrol is mainly used for people addicted to opioids and/or alcohol. Vivitrol will keep a person from experiencing the effects of opioids. It helps reduce physical cravings as well.

Vivitrol is an injection that takes place every 4 weeks. This keeps a person from having to take it every single day.

It also is commonly used for the treatment of alcoholism. It’s known to help reduce a person's overwhelming urge to drink alcohol. 

Naltrexone has the same active ingredient as Vivitrol, but it is taken in pill form every day.

Suboxone is mainly used for people addicted to opiates. It binds to the opioid receptors in your brain and blocks other opiates from binding to these same receptors.

That means a person taking Suboxone could use heroin on the same day and wouldn’t feel the effects of the heroin. Since you can’t get high on other opiates while taking Suboxone, it serves as a great deterrent. 

It also helps with intense cravings for opiates. It’s somewhat of a controversial drug because technically it’s an opiate, and it’s a controlled substance. However, many people have made it through opiate withdrawal successfully with the help of Suboxone.

Suboxone is also used long-term for many addicts in recovery.

Methadone is another controversial MAT medication used primarily for opiate addiction. It’s similar to Suboxone but has been around longer.

What MAT Therapy Works For

Opioid detox is extremely uncomfortable as its symptoms include insomnia, muscle pain, rapid heart rate, nausea, diarrhea, and tremors. Suboxone has become a common MAT medication for opiate detox.

The opioid epidemic is out of control in this country. Because of many drugs being cut with fentanyl, opioid overdoses are an all too common occurrence. With this in mind, Suboxone can be a literal life-saving medication.

Alcohol detox can actually be fatal. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, shivering, anxiety, and seizures. Medications such as Librium are used to help with these symptoms and prevent a person from having a seizure. 

Once through detox with drugs such as Librium, medications such as naltrexone are then used to help a person stay sober from alcohol.

A stimulant detox is different from an opioid or alcohol detox. Stimulants such as crystal meth cause chemical imbalances in the brain.

There are many physical symptoms of a stimulant detox, but some would say that the effects on a person's mental health are even worse.

A stimulant detox can be tricky, and it depends on the prescribing doctor what medications will be used with MAT.

How Do You Know if MAT is Right for You?

Medication used with MAT is only a piece of the puzzle. Addictions affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and all these need to be equally addressed.

In order to know if MAT is right for you, you need to consult a professional in the addiction field.

Even if you don’t go to an inpatient facility to detox, there are many doctors who can help you with MAT therapy.

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At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a recovery supportive network in all aspects.

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