How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work

How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work?

With relapse rates spanning 60%-75% following treatment for a drug or alcohol dependency, it seems like a no brainer to use whatever tools are available to stem the ongoing addiction crisis in America.  In fact, the FDA recently announced it would expand access to one of the most powerful means available for curbing the opioid epidemic: medically assisted treatment (MAT).  This refers to the use of certain drugs, Suboxone, naltrexone, and methadone, synthetic opioids themselves, can reduce cravings and the risk of overdose, helping many to sustain recovery.

How Does Medication Assisted Therapy Work?

So, how does medication assisted treatment work exactly?  MAT works by either blocking or reducing the effects of opioids or alcohol in the brain.  Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that causes the individual to only experience a weakened version of the former high.  Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of the opioid.  Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist.

The MAT program is designed to be of a short duration, usually a few months, and then the dosing will be tapered off while the individual continues talk therapy and recovery support.  Over time, the recovering addict will experience a reduced desire to use the substances because the pay off, the effects of the drugs, is not being experienced.  This will condition the individual to stop craving the drug, expanding the periods of abstinence and improving chances of recovery.

“Studies have shown that outcomes are much better when you are on medication-assisted therapy. For one, it decreases risk of relapse — significantly. Second, MAT has also been shown to be effective in preventing infectious diseases like HIV. Third, medication-assisted therapy has been shown to be effective in preventing overdoses,” states Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

MAT as an Adjunct Therapy for Treating Addiction

There is mounting evidence that treating opioid addiction or alcoholism with MAT can greatly reduce the risk of death due to these substances.  According to a report from the U.K., patients who only had psychotherapy for treating opioid or alcohol dependency were at a higher risk of mortality than the study participants who were also prescribed opioid agonist pharmacotherapy, or MAT.

The chances for a successful treatment outcome appear to be improved for opioid and alcohol dependency when MAT is added to the treatment regimen.  Ongoing psychological support through outpatient individual and group therapy, participation in a 12-step or non 12-step recovery support program, and a period of residing in sober living, when combined with MAT, offer a better chance of achieving a sustained recovery.

MAT Underutilized in Addiction Treatment Programs

With the opioid epidemic continuing to ratchet upward, there is a need for more addiction treatment programs to offer MAT.  Presently, only about 50% of the addiction treatment programs in the U.S. provide MAT, and of those only 30% are prescribed the medication, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Part of the problem is the lack of training or expertise in MAT.  Another barrier is the abstinence-only expectation in recovery, whereby the individual using MAT for a few months following treatment is not considered to be abstaining from substances.

In addition, some insurance companies have placed restrictions on who can receive MAT and for what duration.  When the dosing and duration permitted by insurance plans is insufficient MAT isn’t effective.  Another issue that prevents more acceptance of MAT as standard treatment for certain dependencies is the stigma the public has regarding MAT as just replacing one opioid with another.  Offering better education to the public about how does medication assisted treatment work can help people understand how MAT can save lives.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Programs that Use MAT to Treat Addiction

The Treatment Specialist can help how learn more about how does medication assisted treatment work. We are a valuable partner in helping someone locate a MAT specialty treatment center.  For any questions about how medication assisted treatment works, our knowledgeable specialists are happy to provide answers.  This free locator service will guide you or your loved one to a high quality treatment provider that offers MAT from a wide network of addiction programs.  The Treatment Specialist will also provide a free insurance benefit analysis outlining your plan’s coverage for addiction treatment.  For more information, contact The Treatment Specialist at (866) 644-7911.


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