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Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

April 24, 2024

Table of Contents

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves the use of medications combined with counseling to treat alcohol and opioid addictions. 

The medications utilized for MAT are FDA-approved. Programs are evidence-based and clinically-driven. They are also highly personalized. Most current research shows that medication-assisted treatment, when delivered in combination with behavioral therapy, can be effective for managing alcohol use disorders (AUD) and opioid use disorders (OUD).

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MAT can help improve retention in treatment and reduce the likelihood of opioid overdose. How does medication-assisted treatment work, though?

How Does MAT Work?

Medication-assisted treatment blends pharmacological and behavioral treatment modalities to address the physical and psychological aspects of alcohol and opioid addictions. 

Pharmacological components

Medications used to treat opioid dependence include: 

  • Methadone: A long-acting opioid agonist that diminishes cravings and withdrawal symptoms by activating the same opioid receptors targeted by heroin and prescription painkillers.
  • Buprenorphine: A partial agonist that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal without the euphoric high or dangerous side effects associated with opioids.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from producing euphoric effects. 

Medications used to treat alcohol use disorders include: 

  • Disulfiram: Disulfiram causes severe adverse effects when alcohol is consumed to deter drinking.
  • Acamprosate: Helps stabilize brain chemistry that is disrupted by alcoholism, reducing symptoms of prolonged withdrawal such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.
  • Naltrexone: Reduces cravings for alcohol as well as its pleasurable effects. 

Along with these, there are a number of brand name medications that people may be more familiar with. These include names like Vivitrol (naltrexone) or Suboxone (buprenorphine and naltrexone).

Behavioral components

The most common behavioral interventions combined with FDA-approved medications for MAT include: 

  • CBT: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps people fighting addictions change their behaviors, identifying addiction triggers, and use healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Motivational interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a person-centered style of counseling. It addresses the common problem of ambivalence about change and helps people become more motivated to maintain ongoing abstinence.
  • Counseling: Supportive counseling sessions help people mitigate factors in their environment that might trigger a relapse. Sessions may involve one-on-one therapy, group counseling, or family therapy. 

The efficacy of medication assisted treatment stems from the way it helps with controlling withdrawal symptoms and cravings. At the same time it addresses psychological issues for a holistic approach to addiction recovery. 

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Effective?

The effectiveness of medication assisted treatment is a clinically proven evidence-based treatment. It significantly reduces the need for inpatient medical detox. The primary goal of MAT is complete recovery. Beyond this, MAT can be effective for: 

  • Increasing retention in addiction treatment programs
  • Improving survival rates by minimizing the risk of fatal overdose
  • Decreasing the use of illicit opioids and related criminal activity
  • Enhancing birth outcomes among pregnant women using additive substances
  • Reducing the risk of contracting infectious diseases 

Sadly, less than half of those suffering from opioid use disorder seek out this type of treatment. Increased awareness and accessibility of MAT options is more important than ever as deadly drugs like fentanyl flood the U.S. market. 

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment

The advantages of using medication-assisted treatment include: 

  • Holistic recovery support: MAT is a holistic treatment program addressing both the physical and psychological sides of addiction. MAT combines medication that helps mitigate physical dependence with counseling and behavioral therapies. It treats the whole person, not just the symptoms of an addiction 
  • Improved quality of life: People engaging with MAT often experience significant improvements in their overall quality of life. With the support of this treatment, individuals are better able to maintain employment, improve their personal relationships, and thrive in recovery from addiction.
  • Reduced risk of overdose: MAT significantly lowers the risk of fatal and non-fatal overdoses. By stabilizing the person and reducing cravings, MAT provides a safer environment for recovery.
  • Access to coordinated care: Through MAT programs, people have access to coordinated medical and psychological care. This comprehensive care approach addresses all underlying aspects of a person’s condition. This leads to more effective and sustained recovery outcomes. This may involve the coordinated treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Less chance of relapse in ongoing recovery: Addiction is a relapsing condition. Between 40% and 60% of those engaging with treatment relapsing at least once before achieving ongoing abstinence. Choosing MAT can minimize these risks. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

MAT at Renaissance Recovery helps those with substance use disorder enjoy a more streamlined withdrawal process in recovery. 

If you require assistance with supervised medical detox, we can connect you with suitable facilities near you. There you can begin your recovery and prepare yourself for ongoing outpatient treatment at our luxury rehab center

All addictions are unique and all Renaissance treatment programs reflect this by offering personalized therapies that may include: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Therapies (CBT and DBT) 
  • Motivational therapies
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning 

Call 866.330.9449 and learn more about our treatment options to help you with long-term sobriety.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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