It is no secret that our nation is in a severe opioid crisis. Nearly 50,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2019. This exceeds the number of individuals who died in car crashes alone that same year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021). The deadly impact of illicit fentanyl has added to the increase in overdose deaths.
At The Life Change Center, we help thousands of people struggling with heroin, pill, and fentanyl addiction. In addition to counseling and therapy, we offer Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to help our patients regain their lives while in recovery.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based treatment primarily for opioid use disorders (OUDs). MAT uses medications along with counseling and other therapeutic techniques to treat individuals struggling with opioid addiction. MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids like heroin and prescription pain relievers containing opiates like morphine and codeine; and semi-synthetic opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, and fentanyl (National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, 2021).
The medications used in MAT help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings making detoxification safer and reducing the potential for dangerous relapses. When these medications are administered in their proper dose by medical professionals, they do not produce euphoric effects and have no adverse impact on a person’s overall functioning.
What Medications are Used when Administering MAT?
Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication that reverses an overdose in minutes by removing the opioids from the opioid receptors in the brain. This reduces the dangerous effects of opioids like stopped breathing. If you or someone you care about has an opioid use disorder it is essential to have this drug on hand as it could save their life. At The Life Change Center, we offer Naloxone and Naloxone education.
Methadone has been used for more than 40 years to treat opioid use disorder. It works a lot slower than other opioids and does not cause individuals to get high. It reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms and stabilizes individuals so they can focus on their recovery.
Buprenorphine is used to partially active the opioid receptors in the brain and helps reduce opioid cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms – buprenorphine does not produce the same high as other opioids.
Naltrexone is used to treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Whereas methadone and buprenorphine activate opioid receptors in the brain, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain and also stops the euphoric effects of opioids. While methadone and buprenorphine can be taken during withdrawal to ease symptoms, naltrexone should only be taken after detoxification from opioids.
Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Substituting One Drug for Another?
No. When someone is treated for an opioid addiction, the amount of medication they are taking does not get them high. It does help reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal. These medications help balance the chemicals in the person’s brain so they can work on their recovery without dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Should Everyone with an Opioid Use Disorder Utilize Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Of course, some people do recover without medication, just like many individuals manage diabetes with exercise and diet. However, we would not deny people with diabetes the medication they need to help manage their illness. Therefore, it is bad practice to deny people with opioid use disorder access to FDA-approved medications for their illness (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021).
There is no one-size fits all approach to treatment because every individual is unique. However, Medication-Assisted Treatment has been proven to:
- Increase patient survival.
- Decrease illicit opioid use.
- Reduce the potential for an overdose or relapse.
- Reduce cravings associated with relapse and withdrawal.
- Increase patient involvement in treatment.
- Increase odds of steady employment.
- Decrease patient risk of communicable diseases.
- Improve quality of life.
When used in conjunction with counseling it can be a powerful way to help individuals recover from addictions and regain their lives.
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. (2021). Medication-Assisted Treatment in the Courtroom: A Benchcard for Judicial Professionals Serving Parents and Children Affected by Opioid Use Disorders. Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-63-Medications-for-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Full-Document/PEP21-02-01-002?utm_source=SAMHSA&utm_campaign=02d4838bc4-New_Publication_2021_08_03_1600178&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ee1c4b138c-02d4838bc4-168083237
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Medications for Opioid Use Disorder For Healthcare and Addiction Professionals, Policymakers, Patients, and Families. Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-63-Medications-for-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Full-Document/PEP21-02-01-002?utm_source=SAMHSA&utm_campaign=02d4838bc4-New_Publication_2021_08_03_1600178&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ee1c4b138c-02d4838bc4-168083237