Medication-Assisted Treatment

When combined with therapy and psychosocial supports, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be effective in promoting abstinent behaviors by decreasing cravings, blocking the desired effects of substances, or treating mental health problems that contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. MAT programs provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of an abused substance. Medication-assisted treatment such as Buphrenorphine (Suboxone) and Naltrexone (Vivitrol) can stop the cravings for drugs and alcohol, allowing the individual to stay focused on their recovery plan.

Medication-Assisted Treatment can provide the following benefits:

  • Reduces symptoms of withdrawal and cravings
  • Reduces the drug-induced highs and lows, frees the person from thinking about drugs all the time
  • Provides an opportunity to focus on lifestyle changes that leads to healthy living
  • Can be provided at any level of addiction treatment programming
  • Medications include buprenorphine and naltrexone
  • Requires physician evaluation, supervision and prescription

Alcohol and opiates work like endorphins, which are chemicals in our brain that relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria. But alcohol and opiates are stronger because they are self-administered and the dosage can be controlled. Alcohol and opiates are also addictive and require increased dosages to attain the original euphoria.

Alcohol and opioid use and misuse can create brain changes that lead to addiction. A person who is addicted develops an overpowering urge, or craving for the drug. The person also experiences a loss of control, making it more difficult to refuse the drug, even when use becomes harmful. Most people who are addicted to alcohol or opioids cannot taper off (use less of the drug over time) without help.

When people become dependent on alcohol or opioids they feel sick when there are no opioids in the body. This sickness is known as withdrawal. Along with intense cravings, withdrawal is a hallmark of opioid addiction, and the two combined can make recovery especially difficult.

By helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal, medication-assisted treatment can help a person stop thinking constantly about the problem drug. This allows the person to focus on returning to a healthy lifestyle.

Some people in treatment programs for addiction, or who are seeking help through a 12-step program, may be told that medication-assisted treatment is simply substituting one addictive drug for another. This is not true.

Taking medication for alcohol or opioid addiction is like taking medication for any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or asthma. When it is used according to the doctor’s instructions, the medication will not create a new addiction.

Medications to stop cravings such as buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) can bind to the receptors in the brain, therefore either partially or completely blocking the alcohol or opiate from creating the euphoric effects or “high”. This allows the individual affected by addiction to remain sober, motivated to stay in treatment, avoid relapses, develop coping skills and a healthy lifestyle.

Medication-assisted detoxification and recovery for addiction to opioids (heroin and prescription pain medications) is prescribed at the discretion of our outpatient physician. Medication can also be prescribed to treat any physical ailments caused by addiction.