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Your Guide to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

medication-assisted treatments

Today, a widespread addiction epidemic is plaguing our society. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 46.3 million people aged 12 or older in the United States reported having a substance use disorder in the year prior. That’s roughly 16.5% of the population and more than twice the estimated figure reported in 2019. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for this kind of dependence. But if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be a valuable tool for recovery.

In this article, we will explore what MAT is and its role in a comprehensive addiction treatment plan. With the right resources, you can navigate the challenging landscape of addiction and find hope and healing along the way!

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

If you’ve been struggling with substance misuse, friends or professionals may have suggested medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment, often referred to as MAT, is an evidence-based approach used to help individuals recover from substance use disorders, particularly those related to opioids, alcohol, and tobacco. It combines the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.

MATs target the brain's receptors affected by addictive substances, helping to normalize brain function, reduce cravings, and manage withdrawal symptoms. This approach not only aids in the recovery process but also helps individuals regain control over their lives.

Who Needs MAT?

MAT can be beneficial for various individuals struggling with addiction. Whether you or someone you know is grappling with opioid addiction and withdrawal, alcohol dependence, or tobacco use, MAT can provide much-needed support. It is particularly helpful for those who have experienced multiple relapses or have a history of severe addiction.

Additionally, MAT can be an excellent option for pregnant individuals battling addiction. It can help protect both the individual and their unborn child, reducing the risks of substance use during pregnancy.

Common Types of Medication-Assisted Treatment

As the name suggests, finding the right medication to help wean patients off their addiction is one of the cornerstones of MAT. While each case is different, some commonly used drugs can help ease the withdrawal process for various dependencies. Just remember that these medications are intended as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, which should also include support from counseling and therapy.

MATs for Opiates

  • Methadone: Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist, which means that it affects the same brain receptors as other opioid substances. As such, it is often a treatment for individuals recovering from heroin or using prescription painkillers. Methadone helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and is typically administered in specialized clinics under medical supervision.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that activates the same receptors as opioids but with less intensity. It can be prescribed by qualified healthcare providers in various settings, such as clinics, hospitals, or even qualified private offices.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids and reduces cravings. It can also be used as an MAT for alcohol abuse by blocking the pleasurable side effects of alcohol consumption. Naltrexone can be administered in the form of a monthly injection or taken orally.

MATs for Alcohol

  • Disulfiram: Disulfiram creates an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed, discouraging individuals from drinking. It acts as a deterrent by causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and flushing when alcohol is ingested. This medication serves as a reminder of the negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
  • Acamprosate: Acamprosate helps individuals maintain abstinence from alcohol by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It works by restoring the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that are disrupted by long-term alcohol use. Acamprosate is typically taken in tablet form.

MATs for Tobacco

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): NRT provides nicotine in a controlled manner to help individuals trying to give up cigarettes or figure out how to quit vaping gradually reduce their dependence. NRT products include nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers. These products deliver nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Bupropion: Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that has been found to be effective in helping people quit smoking. It helps reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms by affecting certain chemicals in the brain. Bupropion is typically taken in pill form and is often used in combination with behavioral support.
  • Varenicline: Varenicline is a medication that works by blocking the nicotine receptors in the brain, reducing the pleasurable effects of smoking and decreasing cravings. It also helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline is taken orally and is usually started one to two weeks before the quit date.

MATs and Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Many individuals struggling with addiction also experience underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MAT is closely intertwined with dual-diagnosis treatment, which addresses both substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. 

By incorporating MAT into dual-diagnosis treatment, healthcare providers can stymie the impact of physical dependence while they help patients examine and overcome the mental roots of their addictive behavior. This integrated approach helps them effectively address both the addiction and the mental health condition simultaneously, increasing the chances of successful recovery and overall well-being.

How to Get Help for Addiction

If you or someone you know is battling addiction and considering medication-assisted treatment, seeking help is the first crucial step.

  • Reach out to a healthcare professional: Consult a trusted healthcare provider specializing in addiction medicine. They can assess your situation, recommend suitable treatment options, and guide you throughout the process.
  • Research local treatment centers: Look for reputable treatment centers in your area that offer MAT services. Consider factors such as their expertise, available therapies, and client reviews to make an informed decision.
  • Seek support from loved ones: Don't underestimate the power of a support system. Share your struggles with family and friends who can provide emotional support and encourage you along the journey to recovery.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there is no shame in asking for support. Recovery is possible, and MAT can be a valuable tool on your path to a healthier, happier life.

Stay Informed with Countrywide Testing

Medication-assisted treatment is a powerful approach to help individuals overcome addiction and regain control over their lives. By understanding its potential, you can use MAT to make real progress toward recovery for yourself or your loved ones. 

If you still have other questions about drug misuse, addiction, and the journey toward rehabilitation, Countrywide Testing has the answers you need. An online retailer of reliable, on-site drug testing kits, Countrywide offers various products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab. Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support drug and medication safety? Just contact our team today.