Medically-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, is the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and therapy to treat substance use disorders. At StepHouse Recovery, we use these approved medications to help treat opioid use disorder.
How does MAT work?
The FDA has approved a list of products for the treatment of opioid dependence, including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone products. Naltrexone, or Narcan, is also used in treating heroin overdose by binding to opioid receptors and eliminating the signs of overdose.
Another medication, taken once a month, is Vivitrol.
With medically-assisted treatment, other recovery methods – such as therapy and counseling – are supplemented by an FDA-approved product. This often improves the quality of life, executive functioning, and stress coping mechanisms. Without the withdrawals and cravings, MAT allows patients to focus their energy on recovery and eventual sobriety.
Opioid addiction is recognized as a medical disorder, meaning recovering from addiction is not as simple as choosing to stop. Withdrawal from opioids can occur mere hours after the last dose, inducing severe physical and mental cravings. Changes in the brain caused by substance misuse make it very difficult to resist these cravings and can lead to relapse.
However, studies have shown that addressing substance use disorders with a combination of counseling, behavioral therapy, and medically assisted treatment is not only effective but can help people sustain recovery.
How will StepHouse Recovery implement MAT?
At StepHouse Recovery, we offer medically-assisted treatment to those who struggle with opioid addiction. Our clients are carefully monitored by our nurse practitioner and medical director to ensure we uphold the standards for safety and ethical treatment.
We use naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine in our opioid MAT programs, all of which have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
StepHouse Recovery will also be implementing Vivitrol treatment soon. Read more about Vivitrol here.
Common Myths about Medically-Assisted Treatment
MAT does not lead to addiction to the distributed medication. In fact, programs involving MAT are required to be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The medication is prescribed carefully and monitored for the patient’s health.
There is no proof that abstinence is better than MAT. In fact, suddenly stopping opioids can be dangerous with very strong withdrawals. It is highly recommended to enter recovery with the aid of a medical professional.
Currently, no evidence supports early termination of medically-assisted treatment. Not only that, patients who have been on MAT for 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success.
MAT does not mean the patient doesn’t have access to counseling and further support. MAT is only one part of a greater recovery process that is personally tailored to each person to ensure the best chance of recovery and maintaining sobriety.
Statistical Evidence Supporting MAT
A study conducted in Baltimore, Maryland from 1995-2009 showed that increased access to medication meant for opioid treatment decreased the amount of heroin overdose deaths. Other studies have shown that methadone and buprenorphine treatment has better outcomes for those with opioid use disorders.
These methods are not the only way of treating opioid addiction. However, treatment must be tailored to the needs of each individual, and medication-assisted treatment is a very useful tool to help people on their road to recovery.