What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, is a form of treatment used to treat substance use disorders using medicines to control withdrawal and cravings. Although it us most commonly used to treat opioid use disorders (OUD), MAT can also treat alcohol dependence and other substance use disorders. 

Clinical research has shown that MAT significantly improves the outcome of detox and drug rehab programs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) regard MAT as a highly effective form of evidence-based addiction treatment. Beyond merely alleviating withdrawal or cravings, the best Medication-Assisted Treatment programs give people the tools required to build a solid foundation for long-term recovery.


Common Misconceptions About MAT

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based treatment program that produces highly effective results. But it is also widely misunderstood. Some people believe that MAT is “replacing one addiction with another” or a “band-aid.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that MAT contributes to excellent recovery rates when used to treat opioid dependence and alcohol use disorder (AUD) in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. 


The Facts about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT is more than just medicine; it includes counseling, planning and structure. Medication-Assisted Treatment often succeeds where other methods have failed, so it is an important tool in the battle against addiction. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment is considered an evidence-based approach to treating addiction that uses FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to help people achieve and maintain recovery. Some of the common medications used in MAT include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

The use of MAT has been shown to increase treatment retention rates and reduce the risk of relapse, overdose, and other negative consequences of substance use. Studies have found that individuals receiving MAT are more likely to remain in treatment, have fewer drug-related health problems, and experience improved social functioning.

Medications used in MAT can have side effects, but they are generally mild and well-tolerated. Common side effects include nausea, constipation, insomnia, and headache. It is essential to inform patients about potential side effects and monitor them closely during treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Facts:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment is more than medicine, and it includes therapy and goal-setting.
  • MAT is proven to lengthen the sobriety time for the majority of participants. 
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment uses FDA-approved medicines and is proven safe and effective.
  • MAT enhances and supports recovery; it is not “trading one addiction for another.”


Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is the condition most often treated with MAT. Below is some specific information about some of the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). 


  • Buprenorphine – Buprenorphine occupies opioid receptors in the brain without creating the euphoric effects of other opioids. It helps both stave off withdrawal symptoms and sharply reduce cravings. 
  • Suboxone – Suboxone is a brand name for buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film. It dissolves under the tongue to make taking it easier.
  • Methadone – Another synthetic opioid initially developed in the 1960s. It is used for both opioid detox and long-term “harm reduction” when used as a maintenance medication.
  • Naloxone – This is a fast-acting medication that blocks opioid receptors in the brain. It is sometimes combined with buprenorphine to prevent misuse. Naloxone alone is the active ingredient in NARCAN, a medicine used to quickly reverse opioid overdose. 
  • Naltrexone –  Naltrexone (Vivitrol) blocks the euphoric effects of opioids (and alcohol) in the brain, which can reduce cravings and make it easier for the person to stop using these substances. 


Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Quitting alcohol abruptly can be very dangerous, even resulting in fatal seizures in extreme cases. A medical detox is always recommended for any alcohol-dependent person out of an abundance of caution. MAT for alcoholism includes a number of FDA-approved medicines, including:

Benzodiazepines – Generally prescribed within the detox phase of treatment, benzodiazepines can reduce and prevent withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, insomnia and seizures.

Acamprosate – Also known by the brand name Campral, acamprosate helps to reduce alcohol cravings. It can reduce some alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia as well.

Naltrexone – Naltrexone (Vivitrol) blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol to reduce cravings and make it easier for the person to stop drinking.


Why MAT is an Essential Tool in the Battle Against Addiction

Clinical research has shown that MAT is a safe and effective method for addiction treatment, particularly for Opiate Use Disorder. MAT measurably improves outcomes and increases a person’s chances for staying sober successfully long-term.

Addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing care and management. MAT is not a “quick fix” or a cure for addiction, but rather a tool to support long-term recovery. It is important to integrate MAT into a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling, support groups, and other services to address the underlying causes and consequences of addiction.

MAT can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each patient, as different medications may be more effective for certain types of addictions or individual circumstances. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan based on the patient’s history, current situation, and preferences.

JourneyPure Has Solutions for Addiction, Including MAT

The stigma surrounding MAT remains a significant barrier to access and success. Negative attitudes and beliefs about addiction and medication can prevent individuals from seeking and receiving needed care. Increasing awareness and education about the effectiveness of MAT and treating addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing is essential to improve outcomes for patients.

If you or someone you love could benefit from Medication-Assisted Treatment or residential treatment for substance abuse, or you just have questions about addiction, give JourneyPure a call at (888) 985-2207. We have programs and facilities throughout the Eastern U.S. which are in-network with most major health insurance providers. 


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