When it comes to treating an opioid or alcohol addiction, one of the most effective options offered at addiction treatment facilities is medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. MAT uses medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy to treat addiction more holistically than other treatment programs. This means that MAT doesn’t just focus on getting you off of drugs or alcohol, it also works to address and heal the physical and mental health problems it can cause.
While some people’s opioid abuse begins with illegally obtained medication or heroin, many of the people who are currently addicted to opioids began with a prescription from a doctor. No matter how you came to abuse opioids, the fact remains that they are one of the most addictive drugs available today. What makes opioids so difficult to stop using is just how intensely your brain craves them – and how unpleasant the withdrawal symptoms are.
A medication that helps to reduce opioid cravings, and can be taken as a pill, injection, or patch.
A medication that helps to reduce opioid cravings as well as withdrawal symptoms. Methadone also helps to prevent users from getting high if they do relapse and use opioids
A medication usually utilized toward the end of addiction treatment, naltrexone prevents users from getting high if they take opioids, which aids in preventing relapse.
The reason why these medications work to treat opioid addiction is because they all interact with the same area of the brain that opioids do. This makes your brain believe that you are still taking opioids, which reduces or prevents withdrawal symptoms and cravings. While they are considered safe and effective ways to treat opioid addiction in medication-assisted programs, they do carry a small risk of dependency. Making sure that you are only getting doses when you need them, always under the care and direction of a licensed physician, helps to reduce this chance.
Alcohol is another substance that is both highly addictive and difficult to stop using. Cravings are often very intense, and the more severe your addiction is, the more severe your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be. Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol addiction currently utilizes three different medications to help those with an alcohol addiction work through withdrawal and avoid cravings. These include:
A medication that helps people with an alcohol addiction by reducing cravings, helping to avoid relapse and help you better focus on recovery. Patients in an MAT program will usually begin acamprosate after they have been alcohol-free for at least five days, and it is a good option for long-term recovery. Acamprosate is not effective if people drink large amounts of alcohol while taking it, or if they abuse other drugs.
A medication that helps patients avoid relapse by causing unpleasant side effects if they consume even a small amount of alcohol. These effects include nausea, headache, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. Disulfiram should only be taken after a patient has completed an alcohol detox program.
A medication also utilized in opioid MAT, naltrexone can help those with an alcohol addiction by blocking the euphoric effects of alcohol. This is another way to help prevent relapse, and keep you on your recovery plan.
Medication-assisted treatment has many different benefits for people who are addicted to opioids or alcohol. These include:
Trying to stop using opioids or alcohol is often extremely difficult to accomplish on your own. Not only are cravings very intense, withdrawal symptoms are often unpleasant, leaving you with a high chance of relapse to simply make the symptoms go away. For those with a severe alcohol addiction, there is even a risk of experiencing life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations, delusions, extreme paranoia, and psychosis. For opioid withdrawal, there is a risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated due to stomach-related side effects. During MAT, you will have 24/7 supervision from a trained medical staff, who can intervene if any dangerous symptoms arise.
The medications used in MAT help to block the euphoric effects of both alcohol and opioids. This means that, even if you relapse, you won’t get high or drunk. Or, in the case of those on disulfiram, you will experience very unpleasant side effects. This helps to rewire the “reward system” in your brain that addiction has altered by no longer making opioids or alcohol pleasant to use.
Over time, medication-assisted treatment helps to normalize the chemistry within your brain that addiction has altered. This means fewer cravings, and an increased ability to find happiness and satisfaction in other activities. You won’t have to chase drugs or alcohol to feel good, and can instead go back to hobbies you used to enjoy, or even learn new ones, in order to give your life purpose and meaning.
Many different studies have found MAT to be an extremely effective treatment option for people struggling to overcome an opioid or alcohol addiction. Because the medications used in MAT can be taken for as long as you need them, these programs help people to find a fuller, more lasting recovery from their addiction. Medication-assisted treatment can be a very good option for most people who are addicted to opioids or alcohol.
If you aren’t sure if a MAT program is right for you, we are here to help. We can provide more information on our MAT programs, and discuss your individual situation to help you decide if you would benefit from this treatment.