Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction

Medication-Assisted TherapyIf you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, one of the most successful courses of action is medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Earlier this year the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a leading medical journal that experts around the world trust, published an article about the analyses of studies of people with opioid dependence that were in and out of opioid substitution treatment with methadone or buprenorphine and those that resulted in death. The analysis provided detailed information on opioid substitution treatment and its effectiveness in “suppressing illicit opioid use and reducing all cause and overdose mortality.” (Sordo, BMJ, 2017)

The authors of this analyses concluded that keeping people on MAT (methadone and buprenorphine treatment) was associated with substantial reduction in risk of all causes of death and overdose deaths in people dependent on opioids.

This is an important study, because MAT has been and continues to be somewhat controversial, and some clinicians and publications communicate concerns about trading one drug for another.

Addiction is considered a disease by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Just like with many other diseases medications are sometimes required for a period of time, which can be an indefinite period for some people, to help manage a condition. “Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.” (Source: NIH)

What is MAT?

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. 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. (Source: Samhsa.gov)

There are several drugs used and are prescribed depending on the current status of the patient; newly addicted versus a long-term addiction as well as their overall health and willingness to recover.

MAT Medication Options

A physician, educator and speaker, Sybil Marsh MA MD FASAM Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Case Western Reserve University/UHCMC has compiled a comprehensive study of MAT, the causes/effects and current addiction data in the report entitled Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorders.

In the report the medications used in the process are:

  • Methadone and Buprenorphine® (or buprenorphine/naloxone, also known as Suboxone®) are approved to treat opioid dependence.
  • Extended-release injectable naltrexone (VIVITROL®) is approved for prevention of relapse to opioid use.
  • Short-acting oral naltrexone (ReVia) reduces craving and binging on alcohol.
  • Naloxone treats opioid overdose (temporarily).

Requirements for MAT Success

In the report, specific circumstances that are required to achieve maximum success with MAT are identified.

“Successful use of MAT requires:

  • Adequate medical care for life threatening disease (infections, liver disease, cardiovascular, psychiatric disease)
  • Willingness to engage in counselling, behavioral therapies, outpatient psychosocial treatment including mutual help groups
  • Resources that facilitate treatment for as long as necessary
  • Informed consent* as for other medications”

*When a patient learns about the purpose, benefits and risks of medication and treatment and agrees to receive them

As with any form of addiction, if the patient isn’t willing to do their part to overcome the addiction, it will be challenging to achieve a life-long recovery.

MAT is the Whole Solution

Using the replacement medication without intensive individual and group therapy options will only help to stave off the initial overdose. MAT is a whole solution as it combines therapy to assist the patient in achieving the most success. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Medications should be combined with behavioral counseling for a “whole patient” approach, known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).”

Addiction Outreach Clinic (AOC) provides an outpatient opioid addiction treatment program that includes Suboxone® medication-assisted treatment to prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms combined with a once-a-month behavioral counseling session to support our patients’ recovery efforts and help them get their lives back. Since 2007, AOC has helped thousands of patients on their path to recovery.

Call AOC at 330-259-4849, or e-mail us to schedule an appointment or for more information.

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