Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses FDA-approved medications to treat opioid use disorders. MAT can be an effective at:
MAT is an umbrella term for using specified medication to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders and sometimes tobacco. You may have heard of people taking medications to help them detox from drugs. It’s true that MAT is used in medical detox settings, but it can be effective in all levels of care, including outpatient treatment.
Depending on the specific medication, MAT works in one of two ways:
MAT isn’t a cure for addiction. It’s a tool that can jumpstart and support your recovery. MAT is usually most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, like counseling and behavioral therapy.
Naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram help treat alcohol use disorders.
Opioids that can be treated with MAT include:
Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone help treat opioid use disorders.
Nicotine-replacement therapies can help with tobacco use.
Methadone is the oldest FDA-approved medication for treating heroin addiction. It helps with opioid cravings. Clients usually visit a methadone clinic each day to receive their doses.
Methadone itself is an opioid. Doctors sometimes prescribe it to treat moderate to severe pain. But it can also be abused. That’s why patients must receive methadone at an approved clinic. You may be allowed to take methadone at home but only after you’ve proven yourself to be stable over a period of time.
Methadone is available in pill, liquid, or wafer-form. It’s taken once a day.
Buprenorphine is considered a partial opioid agonist. It can reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. You may feel some opioid-related effects, even if you take it as part of MAT. But compared to full opioid agonists (like heroin), the effects are much weaker.
Buprenorphine comes in several forms, including:
Naltrexone can help treat opioid and alcohol use disorder. It is not an opioid, and it’s not addictive. Instead, naltrexone blocks pleasurable opioid or alcohol effects. It also helps suppress cravings. Naltrexone is available in pill form and as an extended-release injection.
Disulfiram treats alcohol use disorder. It works by triggering an unpleasant reaction when drinking alcohol. These reactions may include:
When you experience these effects after drinking alcohol, you may be less likely to drink.
Disulfiram comes in a tablet form.
Acamprosate also treats people recovering from alcohol use disorder. It doesn’t prevent withdrawal, but it can relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms. It also helps reduce cravings. Acamprosate comes in tablet form. It’s usually taken three times per day.
Bupropion was originally developed as an antidepressant, but it can also help people stop smoking. It works by stimulating norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Bupropion comes in immediate-release and extended-release tablets.
Varenicline (sold under Chantix) helps reduce nicotine cravings. It acts on the same receptors as nicotine does, but to a lesser degree. It comes in a tablet form you can take once or twice a day. Your doctor might prescribe you varenicline one week before the day you intend to stop smoking. Most people take this medication for 12 weeks.
There are benefits and risks associated with all forms of recovery treatment, and there isn’t one method that works for everyone. It’s important to find the treatment that suits your situation or that of your loved one.
It is possible to abuse methadone and buprenorphine. The abuse can occur if you take more than prescribed, which is why it’s essential to take all medication as directed by a medical professional. If you’re concerned about misuse, talk to your doctor about alternative options. Your treatment team will help you evaluate the appropriate method for your recovery needs.
There isn’t a “right” way to recover from addiction. Instead, it’s about finding a method that works for you. Therefore, it’s important to outweigh the pros and cons before engaging in MAT. You’re not alone in making these decisions. Trained professionals will help you evaluate the best choice for your care.
The pros include:
The cons include:
The cost of MAT varies. According to the U.S Department of Defense, cost estimates break down like this:
The prices of other drugs are more variable. That’s because all prescription costs vary based on location and health insurance.
Still, it’s important to compare the costs of MAT with what it costs not to treat your substance use disorder, including:
Think of MAT—if you need it—as an investment in yourself and your future. You need to be well before you can be your best self.
Talk with your treatment team. They will help you evaluate the risks and benefits associated with MAT. It’s essential that you consult with professionals instead of making a decision impulsively.
Remember that you don’t need to commit to one approach forever. Many people use MAT when they first enter treatment. Over time, they may no longer need the medication to support their recovery.
At Footprints to Recovery, we support clients struggling with drug and alcohol use disorders. We customize our treatment to best meet your individual needs. We’re here for you, and we’re excited to help you on your journey towards recovery. Contact us today to get started.