The simplified trajectory for going from addict to sober is, in broad strokes, as follows:

Detox > inpatient care > outpatient care > aftercare 

Pretty neat and clean process, no?

As we all know, life is messier than that.

The general idea is to get into the counseling portion of therapy once your body is fully detoxed from the substances you were taking. In reality, that can sometimes prove dangerous. In addition to each person being their own separate case that requires a unique approach, detox from certain drugs sometimes necessitates that some medications be involved.

What Is Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT)?

Medication assisted therapy combines the commonly accepted forms of inpatient care and rehab with medications that are meant to relieve withdrawal and subsequent cravings.

Most often medication is used in the treatment for opioid and heroin addiction with the FDA approving 3 drugs specifically for that purpose: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. These powerfully addictive drugs are just extremely difficult for a person to kick on their own because of the strong hold they have on a person’s body and mind.

The way it works for opioids is that the approved medication essentially blocks the euphoric feelings associated with opioids and what makes them so addictive. Additionally, they relieve the mental cravings and help normalize body functions. In other words, this type of therapy keeps the brain and body stable so the work of therapy can move forward.

In a 2009 study it was noted that “after buprenorphine became available in Baltimore, heroin overdose deaths decreased by 37 percent during the study period, which ended in 2009.” On top of that, medication assisted therapy increases social functioning.

Medication, in the form of acamprosate, disulfiram and again, naltrexone, is also used in treating alcohol addiction.

An extremely important thing to note though is that this type of treatment does not just substitute addiction to one substance with addiction to another.

What Are the Benefits of Medication Assisted Therapy in Addiction Treatment? 

The benefits go beyond the few mentioned above. The relief from cravings and the normalization of your body functions are somewhat immediate effects, MAT treatment reaches further forward in time with its benefits. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), describes the effectiveness as such:

  • Improve patient survival
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant

Arguably the biggest positive is that the medication allows a person to actually focus on the work of recovery. By removing the euphoric effects of a drug, in the case of opioids and heroin, you’re really removing the mental compulsion that drives you to take more. The “reward” is taken out of the equation so you’re able to control cravings which would otherwise seem like huge mountains to climb.

We said it once, and it bears repeating and hammering home, the point isn’t to swap out drugs and create a new addiction. What an opioid or heroin does and what a drug for treatment does are different in vitally important ways. One can kill you, the other can help cure you.

All American Detox Is Here for You

The main goal of medication assisted treatment is ultimately to help people break the cycle of addiction once and for all and find not just sobriety, but sobriety that lasts. The process of getting clean isn’t always clean or straightforward and if medication assisted treatment is right for you or your loved one, a carefully crafted plan for intake and monitoring will be created. Reach out to us at All American Detox to find out more information.

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