A Comprehensive Guide To Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Opioid Addiction by Rehab Recovery Centers

When it comes to the best options for safely treating opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment can help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce the chances of future relapse.

The Definition of Medication-Assisted Treatment For Substance Use Disorders

Generally speaking, “medication-assisted treatment” refers to a treatment program that combines pharmaceutical interventions with traditional forms of behavioral therapy. MAT stands in contrast to the idea of going “cold turkey” with abstinence therapy, and it is most often used to treat addictions that carry the most severe withdrawal symptoms.

How Is Medication-Assisted Therapy Used To Treat Opioid Addiction?

If a person addicted to opioids suddenly stops using their drug of choice, they will almost always experience withdrawal symptoms to some degree. These symptoms are often so severe that the user is driven back to their opioid addiction by a desire to avoid the pain of withdrawal. This feedback loop creates a vicious cycle where the desire to quit actually leads to heavier use. MAT helps break this cycle by using medication to gradually ease a user through withdrawal.

By using medication that works with your body in progressively lower doses, MAT can help an opioid addict to:

  • Progress safely through the most dangerous stages of the detox process
  • Rewire behavior loops to avoid future opioid use
  • Reverse the negative health effects of past opioid use

What Is The Typical Timeline For A Course of MAT?

Depending on the severity of the addiction, a course of medication-assisted therapy can last from a few weeks to several months or even longer. For all but the most serious substance use disorders, the initial withdrawal symptoms dissipate within the first 30 days of treatment. After a patient makes it through the initial bout of detoxification, the administering physician then starts reducing the dose of therapeutic medications until pharmaceuticals are no longer needed.

If the behavioral therapy aspects of the MAT plan prove to be helpful after withdrawal, then you can continue with them for as long as you would like.

What Are The Costs Associated With Medication-Assisted Treatment?

The amount that you will end up paying out of pocket for MAT depends on which health insurance plan you have and the dosing schedule for your medications. To be on the safe side, you should budget at least a few hundred dollars per month for physician visits and prescriptions during the course of your treatment. Your first 30 days of treatment will probably be the most expensive. If everything goes according to your treatment plan, then you can expect the costs to decrease every month.

The FDA-Approved Medications That Are Used In Treatment

To help combat the growing opioid epidemic in America, the United States Food and Drug Administration has directly approved the following prescription medications for MAT:

  • Suboxone (Buprenorphine)
  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone

These medications work by gently stimulating the opioid receptors within your body or by stabilizing your physiology while you complete the detox process. Withdrawal symptoms arise because prolonged opioid use downregulates your body’s natural receptor levels, and the receptors become less sensitive over time. Cravings then become your body’s way of trying to maintain stable function. Suboxone, naltrexone, and methadone can each help reverse this process and bring your body’s baseline craving level down to zero over time.

Understanding Suboxone

Also known as buprenorphine, Suboxone was approved by the FDA in the early 2000s. Suboxone was engineered to act as an agonist for your brain’s opioid receptors, and it has proven to be especially useful for people who are concerned about the long-term psychological effects of prolonged opioid use. Once the body’s opioid receptors have stabilized and become accustomed to the level of stimulation that Suboxone provides, a physician can begin tapering the dose until the course of MAT is complete.

Understanding Naltrexone

Naltrexone works in the opposite manner as Suboxone. Instead of acting as an opioid receptor agonist, naltrexone binds tightly to the receptors to prevent stimulation and cravings. When naltrexone is working properly, it prevents other opioid drugs from accessing the brain and producing feelings of pleasure. As soon as the drugs involved in an addiction stop producing any positive feelings, cravings begin to subside, and the brain begins to rewire itself.

Overall, Suboxone and naltrexone play complementary roles in MAT.

Understanding Methadone

Methadone has a long and storied history as one of the world’s first synthetic analgesics, and it’s fairly similar to Suboxone. Like Suboxone, methadone stimulates receptors and reduces withdrawal symptoms during the initial detox phase. However, methadone acts longer and is classified as a full agonist. It can be dosed in liquid form, powder form, or through hard tablets. Of the three medications listed above, methadone is generally considered to have the highest potential for abuse. Thus, it’s important to stick to your exact dosing schedule if your physician prescribes a course of methadone with your MAT.

The Typical Course Of Medication-Assisted Treatment

A medication-assisted treatment program begins with a detailed consultation to determine which dosing schedule and prescriptions will help you the most. After consulting with your physician and settling on a course of treatment, you can expect the following phases:

  • An initial detoxification phase
  • A tapering phase to step down your detox dosing over the course of several weeks
  • A final phase to take your baseline dose to zero and finish treatment

Finding A Medication-Assisted Treatment Program Near You

In summary, MAT is one of the most well-established ways to heal from opioid addiction. By using effective, safe medications like Suboxone to reduce detoxification symptoms and cravings, MAT eliminates common problems that tend to arise during other forms of treatment. If you are interested in finding a drug or alcohol rehab near you that is qualified to administer MAT, use our search function to get started on the road to recovery today.

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