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What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 28, 2024

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Treatment and therapies are necessary to combat drug addiction. Trying to quit drugs or alcohol without the aid of a treatment program and therapy can be dangerous. Often, people are more prone to relapse when they don’t have a solid support system. In recent years, researchers discovered that there are medications that can help people deal with the withdrawal effects of drugs.

Professionals refer to this type of therapy as medication-assisted treatment. However, you may have wondered what is medication-assisted treatment? Medication-assisted treatment is often necessary for those who are facing addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

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What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

This treatment involves using medication in combination with therapy to help people who have substance use disorder. Consequently, physicians administer the treatment in a safe and controlled environment by trained professionals. Certified doctors provide approved medications to the client. These medications intend to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal.

This treatment is for those struggling with drug addiction of a more serious nature. Or they’ve been on drugs for an extended amount of time, and withdrawal would be dangerous. Therefore, it helps alleviate symptoms from drugs, such as opioids like heroin and prescription pain killers. Physicians administer the medication as well as provide therapy, which helps the person safely withdraw from opiate-containing substances. The duration of medication-assisted treatment depends on the individual case.

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How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

According to SAMHSA, medication-assisted treatment is used to “sustain recovery and prevent overdose”. Essentially, medication-assisted treatment in addiction recovery is used to help clients overcome and deal with the early stages of recovery and withdrawal that can not only be uncomfortable but dangerous.

MAT is considered an evidence-based treatment method that has been proven to work in aiding clients overcome substance abuse and be instrumental in establishing initial and sustained sobriety.

What are The Benefits Of Medically Assisted Treatment?

Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) has become the treatment of choice for many who suffer from addiction. MAT is an evidence-based treatment and is known worldwide often endorsed by the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, and other agencies that promote behavioral health advancement.

That uses a prescribed medication that helps your brain chemistry by blocking the positive effects of the substance that the client has been abusing, this reduces the psychological cravings and helps the body’s chemistry acclimate to treatment over time.

The Benefits of Medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Safer withdrawal by alleviating symptoms and curbing cravings
  • Reduces the risk of death caused by an overdose
  • Helps people stay in treatment, controlled medications
  • Decreases the amount of illegal drug use and negative characteristics
  • Prevents relapse and can be included in the relapse prevention treatment

Medications Used In Medication-Assisted Therapy

The main types of medication approved by the FDA for medication-assisted therapy are Buprenorphine products (such as Suboxone, Bunavail, Subutex), Methadone products (such as Dolophine and Methadose), and Naltrexone products such as Vivitrol. However, a medication management coordinator will assess your situation and set up a treatment plan, so you are taking safe amounts.

When thinking about what is medication-assisted treatment, you may wonder how it works. Taking opioids affects the natural chemicals in your brain, especially the reward center of the brain. The medications used in medication-assisted treatment work on these chemicals to help stabilize your brain’s chemistry. This ensures you are not going straight into withdrawal.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: Opioid Use Disorder

If you become dependent on opioids, whether prescription painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl, you’ll feel sick when you discontinue use, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.

The following FDA-approved medications can help streamline the recovery process for those with opioid use disorder:

  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Mathadone


Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that interferes with the action of opioids. The medication is neither addictive nor sedative.

Naltrexone is available in an injectable form, Vivitrol. This medication is administered in a controlled clinical setting like an addiction treatment center.


Buprenorphine is proven to reduce the cravings associated with opioid withdrawal, but the medication does not deliver the rewarding effects of opioids.

A partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine can induce euphoric effects at low doses, but not to the same extent as opioid agonists like heroin and methadone.


Methadone is a very slow-acting opioid agonist used for decades to treat heroin addiction.

This prescription medication has the potential for abuse and dependence. To mitigate this, methadone is administered only through certified treatment programs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: Alcohol Use Disorder

The following FDA-approved medications are used for the treatment of alcohol use disorder:

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram


Naltrexone is an opioid agonist that blocks the rewarding effects of opioids and is proven effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.


Acamprosate can help reduce your chances of relapse if you have already quit drinking. This medication does nothing to reduce the intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.


When you take disulfiram as part of medication-assisted treatment, the medication disrupts the metabolic pathway alcohol usually takes.

Consuming alcohol while taking disulfiram causes vomiting, nausea, and headaches, acting as a disincentive to continue drinking.

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Getting Help For Addiction

Find help for your substance use disorder with a medication-assisted treatment plan at Renaissance Recovery. Our personalized treatment programs will help you find the way to inner peace without the trauma of sudden withdrawal.

Start the admission process today by connecting with Renaissance Recovery’s professionally trained therapists; they will evaluate your situation and get you started with a treatment plan. No matter what substance you’re dealing with, our evidence-based programs will work for you.

For instance, some of the programs you can choose from are as follows:

Don’t let drug addiction ruin your future peace in life. Since you now know the answers to what is medication-assisted treatment, you can overcome these issues. So seek treatment at a quality addiction treatment center by contacting our addiction hotline. We’ll help you find the path to happiness.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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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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