For many years, there were simply no effective FDA-approved medications available to treat opioid use disorder. Medication assisted treatment is a relatively new phenomenon, and there are still several myths that persist as a result. MAT does not replace one addiction with another. Instead, it eases the famously challenging symptoms associated with withdrawal symptoms and promotes recovery when given in conjunction with behavioral therapy.

As soon as you’re ready, you can join a state-licensed Alcohol & Other Drug Entity and Behavioral Health Services Organization residential program. Here you receive medication management alongside a variety of therapy and counseling approaches. At Brookside Treatment, we can help you to taper off Buprenorphine, Subutex, Vivitrol or Zubsolv.

What Is MAT?

It is a method of addiction treatment that includes the use of medication in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Medication alone, without psychological intervention, would not be sufficient. What it can do is lower mortality rates and help individuals overcome the excruciating acute withdrawal symptoms. MAT is particularly useful in treating so-called physically addictive drugs.

Substances like alcohol, heroin, benzos and prescription opioids trick your body and mind into thinking they’re necessary for you to function. This is more than an intense craving — it’s a compulsion to abuse drugs or alcohol because of complex genetic, environmental and neurological reasons.

MAT is not the right treatment path for everyone, but it can help many people overcome addiction. One of the most notable aspects of addressing substance use disorders is that different treatment plans work for each individual. There’s no one-size-fits-all; instead, a combination of styles of care, therapy, hard work and sometimes medication is necessary.

How Does MAT Help With Overcoming Addiction?

If you’ve been using heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl or any opiate painkillers and you suddenly stop, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. They occur because the body has adapted to accommodate chronic drug use. When the substance is taken away, the body thinks something is seriously wrong.

Psychoactive drugs can lead to severe imbalances of neurotransmitters and hormones, which can feel terrible for the person experiencing them. Additionally, your brain will be crying out for you to take the substance so you can stop feeling awful. MAT works in the following ways:

  • Reduces uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
  • Lowers the risk of relapse in the acute recovery phase
  • Permits a slow, gentle taper from the psychoactive substance to prevent shock and facilitate adjustment to living without opiates
  • Provides the medical supervision you need in the early phases of recovery

When opioid dependence reaches a certain level of severity — which is different for each person — MAT becomes an option. It’s usually the first port of call for individuals who are at risk of an opioid overdose, too. It should never be the only aspect in the treatment of opioid use disorder. Instead, MAT should make up part of a holistic opioid treatment program that treats the whole patient — body, mind and lifestyle.

A doctor diagnoses an OUD. You can go to your regular primary care physician or social worker or conduct research and choose a rehab facility for yourself. Opiates are such addictive substances that it’s reasonably safe to say that anyone who’s used them for a month or more is likely to be on the substance use disorder spectrum. The longer you use them, the more severe your addiction is expected to be. That said, some people develop an extreme OUD within a matter of weeks or months.

In most cases, the rehab center will be able to refer you to a hospital or doctor to get a medical detox if it’s not offered there.

Methadone was approved for use by the FDA in the mid-1970s, but the results have been mixed. This is partly because it’s a full opioid agonist but also due to the fact it was often administered in an unstructured fashion. When you’re prescribed MAT by a doctor, you must make sure you’re working hard to change your lifestyle and get the structured help you need to maintain long-term sobriety.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the most frequently prescribed medications for opioid addiction treatment:

Buprenorphine (Suboxone or Zubsolv)

Unlike methadone, buprenorphine is only a partial opioid agonist. This means it emulates some of the effects of a full agonist like heroin or oxycodone without inducing a high. Suboxone reduces physical symptoms, but it’s also highly effective at reducing cravings. The other ingredient in this medication is naloxone.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, so it actively counteracts the effects of opiates on the brain. If you attempt to abuse them while you’re taking Zubsolv or Suboxone, you’ll experience adverse effects.

Naloxone (Narcan)

Naloxone is also the substance administered in case of an opioid overdose. When someone takes too much of these types of drugs, it can almost entirely depress the central nervous system. This can decrease breathing to dangerous levels, which is what Narcan reverses.

Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

Vivitrol was approved by the FDA in 2006, and it’s showing significant promise as an effective treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. Like Naloxone, it’s an opioid antagonist. It reverses and blocks the effects of opiate drugs and reduces cravings. One of the reasons it’s so popular is that it works immediately and the effects last for a month.

Methadone

Methadone is possibly the first substance people think of when the term medication assisted treatment is used. It’s an opiate agonist, so it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain just like illicit drugs. However, neither the highs or the lows are as extreme as drugs of abuse like heroin. Treatment providers that use methadone need to administer the drug once a day, so it’s a considerable responsibility.

Typical Length of MAT Treatment

In most cases, it is used to alleviate the worst symptoms associated with the acute stages of opiate withdrawal. In some severe cases, such as for clients who struggle with chronic relapse, it may be necessary indefinitely.

In most cases, however, MAT helps you to manage the worst symptoms you might feel during the first month or two of quitting. The worst withdrawal symptoms usually resolve after a few weeks, although most people experience mild symptoms for much longer. It’s important that you build the resilience to resist and overcome these mild symptoms unaided as part of the recovery journey.

When you’re ready, you can attend a structured substance abuse treatment facility to get the support, guidance, and counseling necessary to taper off from the medication.

How Effective Is The Therapy?

Addiction presents itself differently in each individual, so it’s impossible to say without a doubt that one type of treatment service will work for you. However, MAT has proven highly effective in helping many people escape the trenches of addiction. Not only does it help clients stay on the road to recovery because of the relative lack of discomfort, it also reduces opioid abuse when compared with nonmedical approaches.

However, it’s still utterly essential that holistic therapy is offered as well. This means that in most cases, more than one evidence-based therapy approach is required to help someone successfully overcome their affliction.

Treatment of opioid dependence is never a case of trying one mode of care and if that doesn’t work, it’s hopeless. Most people need to try a range of therapy styles alongside MAT, exercise, psychoeducation and other lifestyle adaptations. As part of the continuum of care for opioid use disorders, the treatment approach is highly effective.

The Importance of Behavioral Therapy

Medication alone would arguably encourage clients to replace one addiction with another, FDA-approved one. However, the inclusion of therapy and psychoeducation empower you and give you the coping skills to push harder and harder for sobriety.

In particular, behavioral therapy is recommended alongside MAT. CBT is arguably the most popular and effective form of treatment for people suffering from addiction, mental health issues and behavioral disorders.

During CBT, you work with a CDC-approved counselor to identify the unhelpful underlying beliefs that drive your unwanted behaviors. They’ll spend a small percentage of your time together asking you questions about your past. This is to give them an idea of your beliefs and where they’ve come from. Unlike traditional talking therapy, the counselor isn’t trying to draw meaning from your subconscious. CBT takes a more practical approach with a clear focus on the here and now.

At rehab, you will also take part in traditional psychotherapy to help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and how you view yourself in relation to the world. You might also take part in art therapy classes, family therapy, psychoeducation, spiritual development, nutritional education, anger management, yoga, mindfulness stress management and aftercare.

If that seems like a lot of treatment options for one condition — it is! And with good reason. Addiction is more than a disease of the body or mind; it occurs as a result of a multitude of factors and reasons. To get to the root of your individual substance use disorder, you’ll need to explore many different avenues and go through trial and error to find what works. When you do, you’ll make the changes necessary to start working towards your goals and dreams.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

There are a variety of benefits to using MAT as a part of an opioid treatment program, including:

  • There’s scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.
  • Someone taking part in an MAT course is less likely to get in trouble with the law, suffer from drug-induced illness or relapse.
  • It encourages individuals to take an active role in their own recovery.
  • It helps to control cravings, which are a leading cause of relapse.
  • Painful or difficult withdrawal symptoms are associated with relapse, and MAT significantly minimizes them.
  • It makes the initial stages of addiction recovery much easier.

Disadvantages

Although it is helpful for most of the people who require it as part of their treatment plan, there are some drawbacks, too:

  • There can be side effects that occur as a result of treatment.
  • It is absolutely not intended as a standalone treatment option.
  • Opioid antagonists might decrease someone’s tolerance to the substance, so if they relapse, there’s a considerable risk of overdose.
  • Some medications are addictive.

Get the Help You Need Now

Medication-assisted treatment is often a necessary step on the recovery journey for people with a severe OUD. As soon as you’re ready, you should transition into a licensed addiction treatment center to get the holistic care you need. At Brookside Treatment, we’ve helped thousands of people to overcome opioid use disorders and regain control over their future. Call us today at 606-658-3078 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.