With the opioid crisis at top of mind for many people, a popular topic of discussion is also what do we do about it?
One thing that most doctors and counselors agree upon is the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment. Despite its ability to treat opioid addiction, the topic of medication assisted treatment — or MAT — is still a debated topic.
Some believe in abstinence over using medication as part of a treatment program, or even misunderstand the physical and psychological effects of addiction altogether.
So, what’s the truth? Let’s start with what medication assisted treatment actually is and is not.
History of Medication Assisted Treatment
MAT is a program designed to use medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies to help people sustain recovery. The three most common medications used are methadone, Suboxone, and Naltrexone.
Methadone and Naltrexone have been used since the 1960s, and Suboxone was later released in 2002, with the latter being referred to as “God’s gift to opiate addicts.”
A concern of many with Suboxone — and rightfully so — is that it can be abused because there’s less accountability and lower retention rates compared to those treated with methadone. Because Suboxone is typically prescribed by a doctor and filled at a local pharmacy, patients are able to manipulate the medication and still use. This is one reason we require daily dosing at our clinic until trust is built.
All medications been proven effective when used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. Medication is only prescribed by a physician who specializes in addiction. At MedPro Treatment Centers, we closely monitor our methadone and Suboxone patients and require a commitment to counseling to stay in our program.
Despite the success of MAT programs, the stigma associated with it causes shame and guilt for many. The judgement around this particular treatment is enough to prevent many addicts from getting the help they need.
Inaccuracies About Medication Assisted Treatment
So, if medication assisted treatment is so successful, why does it get such a bad rap?
Most times, it’s due to lack of knowledge about the drug, with common and incorrect comments being, “It’s legal heroin” or “You’re just switching one addiction for another.” However, patients won’t get high from methadone or Suboxone.
Another misconception around MAT medication is that you’ll need to increase your dosage to maintain the effectiveness. Unlike drugs where addicts up their usage over time as their tolerance increases, there is not a tolerance developed with MAT.
Patients are first put on a low-dose of medication with their dosages rising until they’ve reached a therapeutic dose — the point at which the patient is properly medicated without negative effects.
Effectiveness of MAT
A 2015 Harvard University study found that “evidence strongly supports the use of agonist therapies to reduce opioid use and to retain patients in treatment, with methadone maintenance remaining the gold standard of care,” and medication assisted treatment “at least doubles opioid-abstinence” in controlled trials.
In addition, patients participating in MAT experience a reduction in illicit drug use and drug-related HIV risk behaviors compared to those receiving non-medication treatment.
While some believe the best route for recovery from opioid addiction is abstinence, it’s important to note that addiction isn’t a lack of willpower. The biological effects of addiction are incredibly complex and require extensive work inside and out. With the life tools provided in counseling — both group and individual — patients are able to recognize that they are not their disease and there is hope through treatment.
How to Know if Medication Assisted Treatment is Right for You
Medication assisted treatment is an effective form of addiction treatment, but it’s not for everyone. Methadone, for example, is known as the “last house on the block.” The road to recovery won’t include a quick fix, so potential patients should understand the hard work ahead.
The best candidates for MAT programs have:
- Have a long history of opiate use
- Consistently used for the last year
- Tried everything else, but has been unable to maintain sobriety
- A commitment to the full scope of the program
Addition factors to consider if medication assisted treatment is right for you are if you’ve:
- Been to jail because of drug use
- Relapsed after multiple episodes of treatment
Regardless of the social stigmas that exist about MAT programs, the evidence is abundant that it can be highly effective for patients willing to dedicate themselves to the process. Every addict is worthy of recovery and a safe place to take those initial steps.
If you or someone you know is interested in medication assisted treatment, contact us at MedPro Treatment Centers to see if our program is right for you.