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Why Medically Assisted Treatment is Beneficial in Treating Addiction

medically assisted treatment

Friday, February 23, 2018 | By Tim Powers

When a patient is suffering a disease, the use of medications is an important component in treating that disease. In drug treatment, the use of medications often meets with criticism. Many treatment professionals feel the use of medications to treat substance abuse is merely seen as replacing one substance for another. With 115 people dying per day from opioid abuse, medically assisted treatment can be very beneficial in an overall drug treatment plan.

What is Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

According to information from SAMHSA, medication-assisted treatment  is the use of medications in order to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Along with therapy, counseling and other interventions, medically-assisted is beneficial in treating addiction. A growing body of research is showing the combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat substance abuse disorders.

The primary use of MAT is to help those suffering from opioid addiction. MAT helps stabilize the addict’s brain chemistry as well to block the euphoric effects of drugs and alcohol. Additionally, these medications help relieve cravings and help to normalize body functioning.

A Recent History of Medication-Based Addiction Therapy

In relation to the current drug crisis, current medically assisted treatment started with the approval of buprenorphine by the FDA in 2002. Buprenorphine is known as a partial opiate agonist. This type of medication operates as an opioid or opiate, but it helps to significantly decrease the chance of respiratory arrest from abuse including overdose. Unlike older opioid-based medications such as methadone, buprenorphine can be prescribed in a doctor’s office as part of outpatient treatment instead of the highly structured environment of a clinic.

Another popular addiction treatment medicine is Suboxone. Suboxone is the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. With this combination, buprenorphine delivers opioid doses that are less potent in comparison to the potency found in prescription painkillers or heroin. Designated as a pure opioid antagonist, naloxone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids by intercepting the signals that opioid receptors send to the nervous system.

A new addition to the MAT arsenal is the drug Vivitrol. Vivitrol was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 as a medication to treat alcohol dependence. Vivitrol was approved again in 2010 by the FDA in the treatment of opioid abuse. Vivitrol is an injectable medication that blocks the effects of both drugs and alcohol. The drug has gained in popularity since it is administered as a monthly shot.

MAT and the Philosophy of Harm Reduction

The use of medication-assisted treatment signals a shift regarding the approach of addiction treatment known as harm reduction. According to information from the Harm Reduction Coalition website:

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use… Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself.”

This strategy employs methods that promote “safer use” of substances. These strategies can run the gamut from managed use to total abstinence. Harm reduction addresses where the addict is currently in their addiction. Harm reduction aims to keep the addict functioning at the highest level possible while keeping them interested and engaged in the treatment process.

Medication-assisted treatment is beneficial in this capacity in the fact that it can help professionals address dual diagnosis issues. Many who suffer from addiction also suffer from mental illness because of past traumatic events. In many instances, these mental and physical issues prevent the addict from fully embracing drug treatment.

The Criticisms of Medication-Based Therapy

As stated earlier, critics for medication-assisted therapies contend this intervention is merely substituting one substance for another substance. It is important to make the clear distinction between drugs and medications. The following is a breakdown that shows the clear differences between the two.

Drugs

  • The motivation to use is to achieve euphoria
  • Drug use causes a deterioration of a person’s quality of life.
  • Substance use manifests self-destructive and other harmful behaviors.
  • Drug use occurs within a social network is supports the taking of substances no matter the consequence.

Medications

  • The motivation is to treat and prevent illness and disease.
  • Medication treatment utilizes open and honest communication between medical staff, the patient and their family.
  • The effect of medication use is to improve one’s quality of life.
  • Patients take medication under strict supervision.
  • Medication use occurs within the positive context of a recovery-based community.

Medication-assisted therapy helps people overcome addiction and get on the road to recovery. When taken under the care of experienced medical professionals, medication-based therapies do not compromise or threaten one’s recovery.

MAT is Part of the Solution and Not a Cure

The most important point to understand about MAT is that is not a stand-alone cure. When utilized with therapy, 12-step programs and other interventions found in drug treatment, medication therapy can increase the odds of long-term recovery. As this type of therapy gains popularity, it is important to know what to look for regarding MAT and treatment in general.

Experienced and highly-trained medical personnel run medication-assisted treatment programs. MAT programs are backed by extensive research and have a proven track record of success. Moreover, medically-assisted treatment programs also require strict adherence and monitoring by personnel. When abused or taken at doses that aren’t prescribed, people are likely to beocme addicted to these medications.

MAT programs must be accompanied by effective drug treatment programming. Individual and group counseling, traditional and holistic therapies, life skills training and other programs are the foundations of effective drug treatment. Additionally, treatment programs should feature outpatient programs for those who successfully graduate from an intensive treatment. These programs feature sober living and relapse prevention education that help give the newly recovering addict confidence in transitioning back to the daily lives.

Can Medically Assisted Treatment Help You? Call us Today!

If you or a loved one is seeking help for your addiction, medication-assisted therapy may be an effective tool to help you recover. With all the treatment options available to you, you may feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn. With one phone call to Medically Assisted Treatment, you will get the resources and help you need to get and stay sober.

Our experienced and compassionate team of professionals work with the best facilities nationwide. We will help you find the treatment options that best suit your individual needs. Don’t let your addiction ruin your life; call Medically Assisted Treatment today and start your road to recovery today.

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