Medication-Assisted Treatment refers to the use of certain FDA-approved medications to relieve drug and alcohol cravings and has become the standard of care for opioid use disorder.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Medications used in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and MAT programs are clinically driven and tailored to meet each patient’s needs.
Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery. MAT is also used to prevent or reduce opioid overdose.
MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used.
In 2018, an estimated 2 million people had an opioid use disorder which includes prescription pain medication containing opiates and heroin.
MAT has proved to be clinically effective and to significantly reduce the need for inpatient detoxification services for these individuals. MAT provides a more comprehensive, individually tailored program of medication and behavioral therapy that address the needs of most patients.
The ultimate goal of MAT is full recovery, including the ability to live a self-directed life. This treatment approach has been shown to:
- Improve patient survival
- Increase retention in treatment
- Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
Research also shows that these medications and therapies can contribute to lowering a person’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by reducing the potential for relapse. (SAMHSA)
The prescribed medication operates to:
- Normalize brain chemistry
- Relieve physiological cravings
- Block the euphoric effects of opioids
- Normalize body functions without withdrawal symptoms
Opioid Dependency Medications – Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are used to treat opioid use disorders to short-acting opioids such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. These MAT medications are safe to use for months, years, or even a lifetime. As with any medication, consult your doctor before discontinuing use.
- Buprenorphine – suppresses and reduces cravings for opioids. Learn more about buprenorphine.
- Methadone – reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of opioids. Learn more about methadone.
- Naltrexone – blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids and prevents feelings of euphoria. Learn more about naltrexone.
Opioid Overdose Prevention Medication – Naloxone saves lives by reversing the toxic effects of overdose. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), naloxone is one of a number of medications considered essential to a functioning health care system.
- Naloxone – used to prevent opioid overdose, naloxone reverses the toxic effects of the overdose. Learn more about Naloxone.
Alcohol Use Disorder Medications – Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are the most common drugs used to treat alcohol use disorder. They do not provide a cure for the disorder, but are most effective in people who participate in a MAT program.
- Acamprosate – is for people in recovery, who are no longer drinking alcohol and want to avoid drinking. It works to prevent people from drinking alcohol, but it does not prevent withdrawal symptoms after people drink alcohol.
- Disulfiram – treats chronic alcoholism and is most effective in people who have already gone through detoxification or are in the initial stage of abstinence.
- Naltrexone – blocks the euphoric effects and feelings of intoxication and allows people with alcohol use disorders to reduce alcohol use and to remain motivated to continue to take the medication, stay in treatment, and avoid relapses. (SAMHSA)
Medications to treat opioid and/or alcohol disorder are a result of advances in the understanding of the neurology of addiction and behavioral therapies. In fact, MAT has become the standard of care for opioid use disorders. Much effort has gone into overcoming stigmas associated with medication-assisted treatment. And that is for a good reason – it works!
The DUI MAT Integration/Outreach Project
Learn about the DUI MAT Integration/Outreach Project (DUI MAT), one of 26 projects in California’s MAT Expansion Project. The DUI MAT Project expands access to MAT through select DUI Programs throughout California. Learn how to become a DUI MAT Provide by joining the Informing Webinar, scheduled for October 25, 11:00 am.