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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help overcome opioid addiction. Here we’ll discuss more of what it is, how it works, and if it could work for you or your loved one.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids include prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin as well as the illicit drug heroin and synthetics like Fentanyl, and are a group of drugs known for high risks of dependence and addiction. With opioid addiction, the option of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available to overcome the addiction.

What is MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment (also referred to as MAT) is the use of anti-craving medicine such as naltrexone (Vivitrol), buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone — along with counseling and support — to help address issues related to opioid dependence, including withdrawal, cravings and relapse prevention. Evidenced-based treatment approaches like this are often needed to successfully overcome addiction and maintain long-term recovery.


“Maintain unconditional love for your children, whether they are using drugs or not. Shame and stigma is the barrier that prevents addiction treatment.” – Dr. Omar Faruk, MD – Director of the Right Choice Health Group, Centers for Addiction Recovery

How Opioid Addiction Occurs

Many teens and adults first use opioid prescriptions following an injury or a simple routine procedure (like removing wisdom teeth). Common prescription opioids include Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lorcet), Morphine and Oxycodone (Percocet or OxyContin).

For a variety of reasons, whether just for fun or to cope with stress or trauma, some teens and young adults intentionally misuse opioids. The majority of those abusing prescription drugs are simply getting them from the medicine cabinets of friends, family, and acquaintances.

Some people start misusing prescription opioids and then switch to drugs like heroin since it becomes cheaper or easier to acquire. Before long, the addict will find themselves in a vicious cycle, and the option to ‘just quit’ is not a solution.

How Opioid Use Changes Your Brain

Opioid use and misuse can create brain changes that lead to addiction. A person who is addicted develops an overpowering urge for the drug. The person also experiences a loss of control, making it more difficult to refuse the drug, even when use becomes harmful. Most people who are addicted to opioids cannot quit cold turkey or even taper off without help.


“Just Say No is no longer an option”, says Dr. Faruk. Once the brain has been rewired by the drug, it needs specific treatment for the patient to get better.


How Medication-Assisted Treatment Can Help Opioid Addiction

When people become dependent on opioids, they will feel sick when there are no opioids in the body. This is known as withdrawal. Along with intense cravings for the drug, withdrawal is the #1 negative side-effect of opioid addiction. Experiencing withdrawal can make recovery especially difficult.

By helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal, medication-assisted treatment can first help a patient stop thinking constantly about the drug. This will allow the person to focus on other aspects of life, such as returning to a healthier lifestyle. Learn more about the options for medication-assisted treatment.

In addition to tailoring medications to address cravings and withdrawal, a comprehensive treatment approach will also include therapy or counseling to address emotional or behavioral issues, support recovery, and prevent relapse. Family therapy is especially effective for teens and young adults to address substance use along with other issues.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Myths

Some people who have gone through various treatment programs for addiction, or who are seeking help through a 12-step program, may be told that medication-assisted treatment is simply substituting one addictive drug for another. This is false. Addiction needs to be treated as a disease.

Taking medication for opioid addiction is like taking medication for any other chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. When it is used properly, and according to a doctor’s instructions, this medication will not create a new addiction.


Dr. Omar Faruk (AKA “Dr. O”) is a double board-certified physician who has expertise in many areas of modern medicine: addiction medicine, functional medicine, autoimmune, anti-aging health trends and more. Dr. Faruk is the founder and medical director of Right Choice Health Group, a leader in treating opioid and alcohol addiction.  In this edition of Dr. O’s Daily Dose, Dr. O discussed making a New Year’s Resolution to live a drug-free life.