Medication-Assisted Treatment is used to relieve the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal and reduce the psychological cravings that occur when a person stops abusing substances. It is a leading treatment modality for those hooked on opioids including heroin, codeine, OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet.
Freed from withdrawal symptoms and cravings, the recovering addict can focus on rebuilding other aspects of his or her life: employment, relationships, and mental and physical health. Medication-assisted treatment has also been shown to aid in the decrease of transmissions of diseases like HIV and Hep-C, as well as criminal activity.
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For decades, medication-assisted treatment has saved countless lives by helping people stop their active opioid addiction and gain solid footing in recovery. However, in recent years, as the opioid epidemic has forced the hand of modern medicine, numerous studies on the overall effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment have been conducted.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) conducted a study in 2015 that found those who engaged in MAT for their opioid use disorder were more likely to stay committed to and engaged in addiction treatment.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Medication-assisted treatment treats opioid addiction by combining the use of an opioid-based prescription medication with a full course of therapeutic care.
Someone participating in medication-assisted treatment will, in many cases, be admitted into an inpatient treatment program, where he or she will participate in different therapy sessions while taking methadone.
Studies have proven that this type of treatment provides the following benefits:
- Decreases risk for relapse
- Increases continued participation in treatment services
- Increases clients’ likelihood of getting and maintaining a job
- Minimizes continued drug abuse and criminal activity
- Improves birth outcomes for women who are expecting
While opioid addiction impacts people all over the world, it is especially acute in the U.S., where 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply is consumed. Part of this consumption can be traced back to the greed and dishonesty of major pharmaceutical companies, who touted products like OxyContin as being non-habit forming when they introduced them in the 1990s, while another part can be connected to the medical professionals who overprescribed these medications. (In 2015 alone, 300 million prescriptions were written for these highly addictive painkillers.)
In 2017, more than 72,000 people died of a drug overdose. This represents a big increase from just the year before when 64,000 people died of an overdose. While these overdose numbers represent several kinds of substances, including meth, cocaine, barbiturates, and sedatives, nearly 70 percent of these overdose deaths involved opioids.
The Medications of MAT
Even though medication-assisted treatment saves lives and is readily available, many people struggle with the idea of replacing one opioid for another. However, these opioids are much less potent and when used as directed by a professional, can help change the course of a client’s life for the better.
Medication-assisted treatment has proven controversial in recovery circles, as some hold that those in MAT are not worthy of their “in recovery” status because they are replacing one drug with another. This attitude is harmful within recovery communities since those living with addiction often need one another for support, empathy, and guidance.
The medications used interact either fully or partially with the opioid receptors in the brain without causing the client to feel a high. This results in the decrease of cravings and withdrawal symptoms since the brain and body are essentially tricked into thinking opioids are still being abused when, for all intents and purposes, they’re not.
The common medications used in MAT for opioid addiction include:
- Methadone, which prevents opioid withdrawal symptoms for up to 36 hours. While dosages vary, methadone should not give a person the “high” that comes with taking an opioid but stabilizes the user’s behavior by filling his or her cells’ receptors, allowing substances like dopamine to enter the cells. A synthetic narcotic and full agonist, methadone has been used to treat opioid addiction for 50 years.
- Buprenorphine suppresses withdrawal from prescription pain medications, heroin, and opioids while producing no high. This makes it attractive for the treatment of people during the detox period, though it is also used for long-term recovery maintenance purposes.
- Naltrexone is used to treat heroin or other opioid addiction because it blocks the drug’s effects. Overdoses of naltrexone are non-fatal, unlike overdoses of methadone.
The common medications used in MAT for alcohol addiction include:
- Disulfram is a prescription medication that goes by the name Antabuse, and it causes a bad reaction if people drink alcohol while taking it. Because people know that the medication will make them severely ill if they combine it with alcohol, it has been proven effective in the prevention of relapse.
- Acamprosate Calcium, sold under the name Campral, works by refining the chemical imbalance in the brain caused by chronic alcohol abuse, making it easier for people to refrain from drinking. It can be taken with other medications and is safe for use by those with mild to moderate liver problems.
- Naltrexone, sold under the name ReVia, is a prescription oral medication that reduces alcohol cravings as well as alcohol’s intoxicating effects, helping people to reduce their or stop their drinking. Vivitrol is a form of naltrexone that is administered monthly by injection.
Much like the treatment of a physical disease, the treatment of substance use disorder is a lifelong process. Though the origins of addiction vary from person to person, substance use disorder has long-lasting impacts and can change a person physically, mentally, and emotionally.
How JourneyPure Can Help
If you are addicted to opioids, you are playing a game of Russian roulette with your life. You have the chance to prevent this from happening by reaching out and learning more about the medication-assisted treatment we offer.
At JourneyPure, we understand just how devastating opioid addiction and alcoholism can be. We are here to support you throughout this journey so you are never alone. Call us now to get the help that you deserve.