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MAT Program

What Is a MAT Program?

Medication-assisted treatment, also known as a MAT program or MAT treatment, is a program that uses different medications in combination with behavioral and counseling therapies. The goal of MAT treatment is to provide a “whole-patient” approach to substance abuse treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the medications in a MAT program. 

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MAT programs are clinically tailored and driven to meet every patient’s needs. Research shows that a combination of medication-assisted therapy and medication can treat many disorders. Medication-assisted treatment or a MAT program can help individuals sustain recovery. 

Medication-assisted treatment also reduces and prevents opioid overdose. People trying to overcome their opioid addictions and withdrawal symptoms primarily use MAT treatment.  

The prescribed medications that are utilized in medication-assisted treatment do the following:

  • Normalize body functions without the euphoric and negative effects of the substance
  • Block the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol 
  • Relieve psychological cravings
  • Normalize brain chemistry

What Are the Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

There are many benefits of medication-assisted treatment. Such benefits include:

  • Decreases illegal drug use and the legal consequences and potential dangers
  • Prevents relapse when integrated with behavioral therapies and counseling
  • Facilities a safer withdrawal by controlling cravings and relieving symptoms
  • Increases retention in addiction treatment with controlled, safer medications
  • Reduces the risk of death due to actual overdose

The Effectiveness of a MAT Program

In 2018, there was an estimated 2 million individuals with an opioid use disorder, which includes addiction to prescription pain medications, heroin, and any opiates. The MAT program has proven to be clinically effective and it has reduced the need for inpatient detox services for individuals significantly. MAT programs provide an individualized and comprehensive tailored program of behavioral therapy and medication that addresses the needs of many patients. 

The ultimate goal of a MAT program is full recovery, including but not limited to the ability to live a self-directed lifestyle. The MAT treatment approach accomplishes the following things: 

  • Decrease illicit opiate use along with other criminal activity among individuals with substance use disorders
  • Improve birth outcomes among women who are pregnant and have a substance use disorder
  • Increase a patient’s ability to maintain and gain employment
  • Improve overall patient survival 
  • Increase retention in treatment  

Research has also shown that therapies and medications can contribute to being able to lower an individual’s risk of contracting hepatitis C or HIV by reducing the actual potential for relapse.

What Are Different Forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

The FDA approved a variety of different forms of medication-assisted treatment to help treat opioid and alcohol withdrawal. MAT treatment medications can relieve psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms that cause chemical imbalances in the body. The medications used for a MAT program are evidence-based treatment options and do not substitute one drug for the other.

Alcohol Use Disorders Medications

Disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate are the most common medications for individuals with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. MAT program medications do not provide a cure for alcohol use disorder, but they are the most effective at helping individuals manage their alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  

Opioid Dependency Medications

Methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine treat an individual’s withdrawal symptoms to short-acting opioids such as morphine, codeine, and heroin. It also treats withdrawal symptoms to semi-synthetic opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. It’s safe to use these MAT program medications for months, years, or even a lifetime. 

Opioid Overdose Prevention Medication 

Naloxone is used to prevent opioid overdose by reversing any toxic effects of the overdose. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), naloxone is one of the medications considered to be crucial to a functioning health care system. It blocks europhic effects and any intoxication feelings. 

Naloxone allows individuals with alcohol use disorder to reduce their alcohol use while remaining inspired to do the following:

  • Stay in treatment 
  • Take medicine 
  • Avoid relapse 

Additional Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

Acamprosate

Individuals who are actively in recovery, are no longer drinking, and who want to avoid drinking altogether use this medication for medication-assisted treatment. It works to prevent individuals from actually drinking alcohol, but it doesn’t prevent the withdrawal symptoms after individuals drink the alcohol. Acamprosate works for individuals who continue consuming illicit drugs, engage in prescription drug abuse and misuse, and continue drinking. 

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People generally start taking acamprosate on their fifth day of abstinence. The medication reaches its full effectiveness in about five to eight days. People typically consume acamprosate in tablet form three times a day, preferably around the same time each day. 

The medication’s main side effects are the following:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach 
  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Anxiety 

Disulfiram 

This medication treats chronic alcoholism and is the most effective in individuals who have already completed the detoxification process and are in the beginning stages of abstinence. People take disulfiram in tablet form once every day. People who are intoxicated should not take disulfiram. 

The unpleasant side effects of disulfiram are the following:

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Chest pains
  • Headache 
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 

These side effects can occur as soon as ten minutes after individual drinks even a tiny amount of alcohol and it can last for over an hour. 

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms That a MAT Program Helps Treat?

There are many withdrawal symptoms that medication-assisted treatment helps treat. That’s why medications are a vital aspect of numerous medical detox protocols. The withdrawal symptoms that people experience due to drug use can vary due to the following things:

  • How long was the drug used for
  • The substance used
  • The severity of drug use
  • Length of drug use

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to uncomfortable, to severe, to fatal. Individuals experience withdrawal differently based on the type of substances that they use as well as many other psychological factors. For example, for individuals with severe alcoholism issues, it’s possible to experience dangerous complications such as:

  • An altered consciousness
  • Hallucinations 
  • Cognition
  • Agitation 
  • Seizures
  • Delirium 

MAT treatment can eliminate the above-mentioned withdrawal symptoms and make detox much safer. Also, MAT programs can reduce the entire impact of withdrawal symptoms by assisting an individual in the tapering off of a given substance. 

Can Medication-Assisted Treatment Be Used for Other Addictions?

A MAT treatment approach can be used in clinical settings for many other addictions, even though FDA-approved medications aren’t available currently. For example, individuals might use clonidine to help them manage opioid and alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepine withdrawal management, on the other hand, might warrant the use of anticonvulsant medications. 

The current protocol right now when detoxing from benzodiazepines is to slowly wean off the medication. However, this might not always be an option. Additional management for withdrawal complications such as agitation and seizure might be required. 

Various medications are being studied as possible options for MAT treatment to manage symptoms relating to benzodiazepine withdrawal. Some addiction treatment facilities might prescribe medications to manage bothersome benzo withdrawal symptoms as they arise. 

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Safe?

When an individual has an active substance use disorder, the safety of treating it through medication-assisted therapy is always a major concern. If people take their medications for opioid withdrawal correctly, it shouldn’t result in a strengthened high. So the ingrained abuse potential is significantly lowered. 

Many of the medications that people utilize in medication-assisted therapy block the full effects of substances. These medications are intended to treat substance withdrawal symptoms. They also have a low risk of overdose when used according to the parameters that were prescribed. For example, Suboxone, which alleviates opioid withdrawal symptoms, is composed of naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, and is generally safe. 

If someone intentionally misuses Suboxone by injecting the drug, that person can experience intense withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is a full opioid agonist and it has been safely used for managing opioid addiction for several years by being carefully monitored and dispensed. Similar to Suboxone, methadone is typically safe to be used under medical supervision. 

Both Suboxone and methadone are effective for long-term withdrawal treatment and detox. In particular, Suboxone is well-known to be a safe medication with a lower risk of medication interactions and side effects. 

Before deciding on medication-assisted therapy, it’s advised that you discuss your choices with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you do the following:

  • Decide on the most effective form of treatment that can meet your needs
  • Weigh the pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment
  • Understand your options 

Medication-Assisted Therapy Awaits at Live Free Recovery 

After doing diligent research on medication-assisted therapy for your needs, it’s time to decide on which treatment choice will be the most effective. MAT treatment has completely emerged as a more effective and safer way to address troublesome substance use disorders than most. Still, our knowledgeable and compassionate staff here at Live Free Recovery can help you decide if medication-assisted treatment is the best option for you. Contact us today to get started. 

References:
https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions