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Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work? Here is what you need to know about MAT and getting sober with a MAT program

Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work? Here is what you need to know about MAT and getting sober with a MAT program

In the United States, alcoholism and opioid addiction are two of the most common health issues. As the public grows more aware of the opioid issue, it becomes impossible to ignore the shocking and terrifying results of nonmedical opioid usage.

In 2015, about 2 million people became hooked to prescription opioid medications, and 33,000 people died in the United States from opioid overdoses, which included heroin and illicitly made fentanyl, as well as prescription opioids.

The statistics on alcohol abuse are as alarming. In 2015, 15.1 million American people over the age of 18 were projected to have an alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for alcohol addiction. The fact that persons who misuse opioids also abuse alcohol or other substances adds to the complexity of the problem.

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is a treatment method for opioid and alcohol addiction that has had a lot of success.


What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment, and How Does It Work?


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a customized strategy for treating substance use disorders that combines FDA-approved medications, behavioral strategies, and counseling. Rather than depending just on pharmaceutical therapies for addiction therapy, a combination of behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions can assist address the physical, psychological, social, and emotional difficulties that can both cause and result from substance usage. MAT is mostly used to treat opioid addiction, such as heroin or prescription medicines, although it is also frequently used to treat alcoholism.


Chronic opioid usage causes a variety of alterations in brain chemistry, which are at the root of both physiological dependence and addiction. Addiction is a chronic disorder in which people continue to use drugs despite knowing the dangers. Physical dependency, which is sometimes confused with addiction, implies that you need to keep taking the drug to feel normal and prevent dangerous and potentially debilitating withdrawal symptoms.


People who abuse alcohol, like opioid users, can develop dependency and addiction. While acute opiate withdrawal can be excruciating, alcohol withdrawal might be even more so, as it can be followed by hazardous health consequences like seizures and delirium tremens. Because quitting alcohol is a difficult process that demands special attention, those who have completed it are frequently tremendously driven to stay sober. Severe cravings and peer pressure, on the other hand, might make remaining sober extremely difficult. MAT medicines can help to reduce cravings and improve the odds of long-term recovery success.


MAT therapies can help with a variety of things, including:

  • Avoid relapse.
  • Certain substances’ euphoric qualities are blocked.
  • Reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Eliminate or lessen cravings.
  • Assist with behavioral therapy.
  • Allow patients to concentrate on regular tasks such as work or household duties.


Behavioral therapy and counseling can aid people in making positive life adjustments, examining and overcoming issues that led to substance misuse, and acquiring new and improved coping skills that can help them avoid relapse. MAT medicines aid therapy by restoring some of the physical and psychological stability that is required to properly participate.


Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) a Successful Treatment Option?


MAT has been proved to be an effective and beneficial treatment for persons who are struggling with substance misuse.

MAT is an evidence-based treatment, which means that it has been proven to be successful through study. MAT has “shown to be clinically beneficial and to greatly reduce the requirement for inpatient detoxification services for [those suffering from opioid use disorders],” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


Unfortunately, MAT has been underutilized; in 2012, fewer than 1 million of the 2.5 million Americans suffering from opiate addiction used it. MAT has been demonstrated to be successful in a number of clinical studies, despite this. There is numerous research that shows the benefits of opioid abuse in particular.

A study of heroin overdose deaths in Baltimore between 1995 and 2009 found a link between increased availability of methadone and buprenorphine (frequently used MAT medicines) and a 50% reduction in the number of fatal overdoses, according to research in The New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the same paper, MAT increases the number of patients who stay in treatment, improves social functioning, and lowers the chance of contracting a drug-related infectious disease or engaging in criminal conduct.


In 2015, the first long-term follow-up evidence on the effectiveness of MAT was released. The Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study participants were followed by researchers. The study looked at abstinence rates among patients who had participated in MAT and was a collaboration between the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network and researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s School of Medicine. Following MAT therapy, half of the individuals reported being drug-free for 18 months, rising to 61 percent after 3.5 years, with fewer than 10% satisfying the criteria for a diagnosis of drug dependence.

Additional MAT research in high-income nations (such as the United States) has backed up these findings, with multiple studies showing a 50 percent retention rate in Medication-Assisted Treatment.


What Medications Are Used in MAT?


People who enroll in MAT programs are treated with a variety of FDA-approved drugs. At licensed opioid treatment centers, people who are addicted to opioids undergo MAT treatment (OTPs). The following are some of the MAT drugs that are used to treat opioid addiction and/or withdrawal:

  • Methadone. This medicine is classified as a complete opioid agonist, which means it fully stimulates opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone is closely regulated and supplied to people who are enrolled in an OPT, and the daily amount is incapable of creating the overwhelming high that encourages obsessive usage. The only MAT medicine approved for use in pregnant or nursing women is methadone.
  • Buprenorphine is a drug that is used to treat opioid addiction. As a partial opioid agonist, it generates opioid effects but not to the same degree as complete opioid agonists such as heroin or methadone. Buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect,” which means that after a specific amount of dosages, no further negative effects will occur. This reduces the likelihood of abuse. Suboxone is a MAT medicine that contains buprenorphine and naloxone.
  • Naltrexone is a drug that is used to treat addiction. This drug differs from the others in that it has a different effect. It’s an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids. You won’t experience any of the euphoria or high associated with the abused drug if you relapse while on naltrexone.


MAT programs also provide medication to people who are addicted to alcohol.


The following are some of the MAT drugs used to treat alcoholism and withdrawal:


  • Naltrexone. This medicine is designed to prevent and reduce the euphoric feelings that occur when you drink, like opiate addiction.
  • Acamprosate. This medicine aids in the prevention of relapse in persons who have already stopped drinking. It will not protect persons who have recently stopped drinking from experiencing withdrawal symptoms. After quitting drinking, you must wait a few days (5-8 days) before starting acamprosate treatment.



If I use MAT, am I still considered sober?


You are still sober if you use MATs, despite what you may have heard. Everyone’s definition of sobriety is different, but Medication-Assisted Treatment medications can help you avoid relapse and maintain your sobriety. Some people believe that MAT drugs are simply a replacement for their preferred drug or that they are “shifting one addiction for another.” MAT programs, on the other hand, provide drugs that are safe, controlled, and effective. When used correctly and under professional supervision, these drugs seldom cause serious side effects. They also don’t provide any of the highs associated with problematic use and compulsive drug-seeking when used responsibly.


Keep in mind that addiction is a long-term illness. Many specialists think that addiction should not be handled any differently than other chronic disorders like diabetes, which rely on medicine and lifestyle changes. For many people suffering from addiction, medication is often required to prevent overdose (which can be lethal) and to aid recovery. Making lifestyle adjustments, such as those encouraged by MAT, behavioral therapy, and counseling can help further cement your chances of recovery, just as it can with other conditions.


Can I participate in MAT while in AA or NA?


Some 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), have strong rules about using Medication-Assisted Treatment while in the group. If you’re taking MAT medicines, some AA or NA members may argue that you’re not truly sober. However, these well-intentioned individuals may be delivering inaccurate or misleading information. Advice from well-intentioned but ignorant members is not based on science or 12-step philosophy, and it goes against a long-standing 12-step policy.


If 12-step programs like AA or NA don’t suit your needs, you can explore joining a non-12-step group that provides a similar degree of support. If typical 12-step groups don’t feel like a good fit, you may always locate a group that is more tolerant and supportive of your therapy choices.

How Do I Start MAT?


Finding a Medication-Assisted Treatment MAT program n Massachusetts is easier than you might expect and can often be accomplished through a simple phone call or visit

If you are out of our clinic network area, locate a buprenorphine program through the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at 866-BUP-CSAT (866-287-2728).

Additionally, you can find more information about MAT treatment on our website or by calling one of our clinics. If you’re interested in discussing your treatment options, give us a call or contact us today We are available to help you find a program that is right for you.