What is a Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

What is a Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

Mark Olsen, MBA

December 13, 2021

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that “in 2018, an estimated 2 million people had an opioid use disorder which includes prescription pain medication containing opiates and heroin.” Even though with that many individuals who suffer from a substance abuse, believe it or not each case is unique. Each individual who is suffering from a substance addiction has a unique set of recovery needs, so it takes a special kind of medical assistance program to help the individual in need sustain recovery. Your medical provider may recommend that individual undergo a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program. Substance use disorder can be very challenging to overcome but with the right tools and the right people, anything is possible.

What is a Medication-Assisted Treatment Program?

Due to the highly individualized nature of addiction recovery, there is no single treatment approach that works for everyone. Don’t be discouraged though because through the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, a MAT program helps the patient tackle their chemical dependence from a “whole-patient” approach. That “whole-patient” approach accounts for the individual’s past and present experiences, education, beliefs, stressors, social impact, financial situation and medical history; the care delivered revolves around the individual rather than focusing on one medical condition. 

How does it work?

The MAT program is split into two parts, the medication and therapy portions. The medication portion has objectives to block the “feel good” effect of the chemical, stabilize brain chemistry and relive the cravings for the chemical. In other words, a safer and medically approved chemical replaces the harmful chemical in an effort to remove the negative effects of that harmful chemical from the body. Some of the commonly used medications include*:

  1. Naltrexone - (Vivitrol / Revia), as defined by SAMHSA, “is not an opioid, is not addictive, and does not cause withdrawal symptoms with stop of use. Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids such as heroin, morphine and codeine.” 
  2. Methadone - (Diskets  Methadone Intensol / Methadose), as defined by SAMHSA, is “a long-acting opioid agonist, reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of opioids.” 
  3. Buprenorphine - (Belbuca / Probuphine / Buprenex), as defined by SAMHSA, “is an opioid partial agonist. It produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are weaker than full opioid agonists such as methadone and heroin.”

The therapy portion includes counseling and other forms of behavioral therapy to assist patients to overcome their psychological needs to seek and use these harmful substances. The following three types of therapies are commonly used to help those suffering from addiction*:

  1. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy - has the ultimate goal to realize the individual has the power in themselves to think rationally about each situation. Any negative thoughts the individual may have are carefully mitigated and replaced with happier and healthier thoughts.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - gives the individual the ability to understand their unhealthy behavioral patterns so that the triggers to these behaviors can be identified and eliminated. The development of new coping skills is critical in this form of therapy. 
  3. 12-Step Facilitation - has the individual undergo a 12-step program, in a group setting, to begin with acceptance they have a problem all the way to transitional care and giving back to others who are struggling. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, is a program that assists with this kind of therapy. 
Taking the first step

Medication-Assisted Treatment is a highly individualized and comprehensive substance abuse intervention program. Even though each treatment plan is individualized, each program ends with the goal of full recovery. The first step to living a healthier life is to talk to a medical professional. To talk to highly-trained medical professionals who have many years of addiction recovery experience, give Cross Valley Health & Medicine a call at 845-561-7075 or fill out our confidential online form and one of our staff members will get in contact with you within one business day. 

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*Any information listed on this page is provided for medical educational purposes only, and shall not be taken as medical advice provided by Cross Valley Health & Medicine. Any medications listed on this page are also provided for medical educational purposes only, and the use of any of these mentioned medications should stem from consulting with your provider.