Medications used in the treatment of substance abuse disorders are shown to be profoundly effective, and we need to access every type of treatment modality we can to make a difference.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications and counseling to treat substance use disorders. Many people with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can benefit from MAT. In fact, it is the most effective way for some individuals to recover long term.
Prescribed medications work to stabilize the brain's chemistry, shut off the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol, ease physiological cravings and stabilize body functions, without the adverse side effects of the abused substance. For patients with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), the prescribed medications decrease opioid craving, stop withdrawal symptoms, and decrease HIV and hepatitis C infections and overdose death risks and mortality rates.
The U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs to treat OUD as part of “whole-patient” treatment which includes counseling and behavioral therapies -- methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Each of them work in slightly different ways, and medication choice is tailored to each patient. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, no matter which medication is selected, the goal is the same: getting the patient to feel normal, have little to no side effects or withdrawal symptoms, and have controlled cravings.
MAT generally includes the following steps:
- Drug detoxification: The first portion of medication-assisted treatment usually involves some form of detox. There are two main objectives in drug detoxification: to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and to lessen the dependency on the addictive substance. Drug detox may involve the use of agonist or antagonist drugs or require users to taper from using addictive substance over a period of time.
- Behavioral therapy: These are the various treatment options aimed to cover the psychological and environmental factors of addiction. After the detox process, the individual can undergo psychotherapy, holistic approaches, and various substance abuse treatment options. In some instances, medication-assisted treatment will continue during this phase, as people need to take some medications after a period of abstinence from the abused substances.
- Continued MAT and aftercare: It is possible to continue taking antagonist or agonist drugs even after the period of intensive rehab ends. MAT aftercare programs may include the regular use of prescription medications until dependency is no longer observed. People take the medications while participating in relapse prevention programs, counseling, support groups, and continued behavioral therapies.
If you’re wondering how to manage a MAT treatment program, we can design a rehab treatment program suitable for your needs. The steps mentioned above are part of a general process, but the treatment options for each part of the program will be customized according to your unique background and needs.
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