Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?

Home / Sober Living Q & A / Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?

Before choosing if medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is right for you, make sure you understand the theory behind introducing medication in recovery and which addictions it suits best. It is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for addiction. MAT is most commonly used to treat opioid addictions and alcoholism.

The use of medications to treat addictions began in the 1990s when methadone was introduced as a treatment for heroin addiction. Mental health and recovery professionals began seeing medicine as a tool for drug addiction once addiction became recognized as a disease of the brain and not a choice. After successful pilot programs using methadone, the treatment was accepted by the FDA.

Why It Works

Since the 1970’s opioid crisis, the medical community has done extensive research on opioid addiction and have concluded that MAT for opioid addiction is not just an option, but is the recommended treatment for moderate to severe opioid addictions. There are a few reasons for this, mostly physiological.

It is proven that the use of opioids has a profound effect on many bodily functions with a significant impact on the brain. Abstinence-only recovery models are more harmful to opioid patients than others because they do not take into consideration the rapid changes in brain chemistry caused by opiates as opposed to alcohol, which was another area using abstinence-only recovery. The medication normalizes brain chemistry, blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieves physiological cravings, and normalizes body functions without the negative effects of drugs.

When it comes to opioid addiction, we must remember that not all opioid addicts are using street drugs. Some addicts have become dependent due to a prescription they were given by a doctor. The effects of opiates on the body is so profound that even someone taking medicine as prescribed by a doctor can become addicted. The withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, which contributes to the rate of relapse.

The goal with MAT is full recovery. Studies have shown that abstinence-only treatment has higher rates of relapse and overdoses as opposed to MAT. With opioid addiction, many people understand the acute symptoms of withdrawal that show during detox.

However, there are protracted symptoms that can show up weeks or months after detox that include fatigue, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), poor appetite, and insomnia. The use of long-acting opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine prevents these protracted symptoms which may lead to relapse.

Is MAT Only for Opioid Addiction?

While most of MAT is built to treat opioid addiction, there are practical uses for alcoholism, as well. Factually, withdrawal from alcohol can kill a person. It’s not necessarily the withdrawal symptoms that can kill a person, but the body’s systems have adapted to the alcohol and become dependent to function as they have been. Once the alcohol has been completely cut out, the body functions start to deteriorate. This can be fatal in some cases. Therefore, MAT in terms of alcoholism is applied by weaning a user off alcohol safely. This allows the body to redevelop healthy homeostasis.

There is not a complete consensus that MAT should even be used to treat opioid addictions. Some professionals see it as not true recovery or a way of cheating. There is a stigma that comes with recovery using methadone or buprenorphine, which shouldn’t deter someone from using MAT if they feel it is truly the best way to recover.

There are now opioid treatment facilities in all 50 states, besides Wyoming, that offer MAT. It is always a good idea to research facilities in your area, or farther if you are willing to travel. Make phone calls and ask what model of treatment they use, and if MAT is part of that treatment. When it comes to your recovery, you have the right to the best and most helpful information.

Accessibility of MAT

Many people are hesitant to try MAT due to their current insurance status. The use of any drug to treat an illness can be quite expensive and sometimes seem impractical because of it. However, there are currently thirty-one states whose Medicaid programs cover MAT provided in outpatient programs.

State Medicaid agencies vary as to whether buprenorphine is used, and what requirements need to be met. Call your county health department for more information and resources on Medicaid in your state. There are many practical and physical reasons why people may need MAT in recovery.

The withdrawal symptoms can make it harder to maintain sobriety after detox, which makes relapse more likely. For those who struggle with alcoholism, withdrawal can potentially be fatal.

Although they may need guidance at times, people are pretty good at understanding their habits and what works best for them and Northstar Transitions will be at your side. If you feel MAT is best for you or your loved one, give Northstar a call and talk to our recovery professionals. We are here to help. Their main goal is sustainable recovery. Do not let stigma or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help. Call Northstar Transitions now at (303) 558-6400.