According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2018 two out of every three overdoses involved an opioid. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that excessive drinking kills more than 95,000 people every year.

These statistics are staggering and avoidable. Governments and medical authorities are eager to find solutions and save lives, and medication-assisted treatment has recently become a popular option to address this trend.

You find it ironic, or concerning, that one of the most common treatments for drug addiction introduces a person to more substances – how does that make sense? We’ll explain what medication-assisted treatment really is, and why it can serve as the best form of treatment for any substance use habits.

What is medication-assisted treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the use of medication to reduce painful withdrawal symptoms, minimize cravings and decrease the likelihood of relapse during recovery. Medications like Vivitrol, Suboxone and Methadone are some of the most well-known MAT medications, all safe methods to help you cope with the potentially lethal effects of opioids and alcohol.

There’s a common myth that medication-assisted treatment is just substituting one drug dependency for another. Although MAT uses medications for treatment, the medications used are prescribed, monitored, legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

With any substance, there is a potential for misuse. This is why MAT programs operate under licensed physicians and follow a strict protocol. During medication-assisted treatment, medications are strictly administered and drug tests are routinely issued to ensure meds are distributed at appropriate levels.

MAT is also not simply a replacement addiction, because the intention of the treatment is a slow weaning of the substance. Depending on the duration and intensity of the addiction, some individuals will need to participate in MAT for months or even years. However, the goal of MAT is always substance-free living.

How does MAT work?

Medication-assisted treatment occurs in a medical facility, such as a detox facility or a medical location. Drugs are distributed by licensed physicians to individuals who have undergone an assessment and are committed to detoxing from substances. 

MAT works because it addresses the root of an addiction. When someone uses substances the brain’s neurons are rerouted, changing the way a person behaves and experiences cravings. The approved medications block and restructure those pathways, making it easier to break addiction for good.

Not only is the brain affected by the chemicals in opioids and alcohol, but the body suffers, too. Addictions have physical implications, meaning that the body will feel sick when it is used to drugs and consumption stops abruptly. Substance use medications help the brain to recover as well as the body through prescribed medications and careful monitoring.

Benefits of MAT

One of the best benefits of MAT is that the process of withdrawal becomes less harmful. Detoxing from some substances can result in dangerous or even deadly side effects, such as dehydration, seizures and difficulty breathing. These painful symptoms can feel unmanageable and sometimes drive people back to illegal drugs as they look for relief.

MAT helps to prevent those seemingly insurmountable cravings because they are curbed by substance use medications. When you participate in MAT, you’ll have access to addiction medications that make detox less unbearable, though it will still be difficult.

Moreover, a MAT program will also ensure that you are monitored while you are engaging in the treatment. You’ll have access to a psychiatrist, a counselor or therapist and other addiction specialists in both the medical and mental health field. This will keep you more accountable as you pursue recovery and ensure that you are physically safe.

When you participate in MAT, there will be a natural segue into long-term treatment options. Most addiction medication programs are also connected to other service options, like counselor or group therapy. Having this easy access to extended help is your best bet for sustained sobriety.

You can expect support from a team of professionals dedicated to your long-term recovery. If you’re tired of addiction and eager for true freedom from substances, it’s time to get started with medication-assisted treatment.

If you’re interested in using medication for substance use recovery but don’t know where to turn, Real Recovery has your back. Learn more about everything our medication-assisted treatment program can do for you, and get in touch with an addiction specialist by calling 855-363-7325.