Medication-assisted treatment, commonly shortened to “MAT,” is a treatment approach that combines behavioral therapies and medication to treat addiction. Although medication assisted treatment for substance abuse is a common part of detox, professionals often recommend it during inpatient treatment and beyond.
One of the reasons why MAT is helpful to many people is because it may reduce the risk of relapse. In a study, 63% of participants who went through treatment before and subsequently relapsed requested MAT when they returned for treatment. After their initial inpatient treatment program without ongoing MAT, 27% relapsed the day they were released. Within a month, 65% relapsed. The number increased to 90% within a year.
Drug use and overdose deaths are increasing in Palm Beach County. In August 2020, overdose deaths in the county were up 49% from the total for the same period in 2019. Since MAT helps reduce the risk of relapse and a dangerous overdose, more professionals in Florida recommend it today. Addiction treatment facilities are working hard to provide MAT in Florida.
When is Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse Required?
Since substance abuse can alter a person’s brain chemistry, it’s beneficial to use medications that help balance it. For example, opioid abuse changes the brain by causing it to stop reacting to the drugs. When brain changes are dangerous and increase the risk of relapse and overdose, MAT can be a useful approach to sustain long-term recovery. These are some examples of types of substance abuse that often warrant MAT:
- Prescription opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl)
While there isn’t enough research for clear guidelines on MAT for cocaine, current research shows hope for future treatment options. However, professionals can still administer medications to treat withdrawal side effects and co-occurring disorders. When developing a plan for medication assisted treatment for substance abuse, a professional considers all aspects of the addiction and the individual’s life. Since dual diagnosis is often an issue, a long-term medication plan may also include anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or others. The key idea of MAT is to treat the whole person and help the individual beat the cycle of addiction.
What Medications Are Used in MAT for Substance Abuse?
There are several medications that professionals use for ongoing MAT after detox. While some are introduced during detox and used throughout inpatient treatment, there are some that may only be needed during detox or inpatient treatment. For example, doctors may administer benzodiazepines during alcohol detox to prevent panic attacks and anxiety.
There are also supportive medications to address side effects. These side effects will be discussed later in the guide. For people who experience extreme nausea, ondansetron or another prescription antiemetic can help. In some cases, doctors use clonidine with other medications to reduce stress and the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the type of substance and individual factors, there may be others.
Additionally, there are other medications that help prevent dangerous effects. Also, some medications help with issues related to brain chemistry changes from substance abuse. These are some examples of medications that professionals use for specific types of addiction.
Medications for facilities
For people who struggle with heroin or prescription opioid addiction, there are only a few Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication categories. These are the categories and the products they include:
- Methadone, which includes Dolophine tablets and Methadose oral concentrate.
- Naltrexone, which includes Vivitrol injections.
- Buprenorphine, which includes Bunavail, Zubsolv, Suboxone, Subutex, Probuphine, Sublocade and Cassipa.
- Naloxone, which quickly reverses the effects of opioids to prevent death from an overdose.
Buprenorphine is one of the most common categories and offers a variety of administration routes. For example, there are sublingual and buccal products, subdermal implants, injections and tablets. Naloxone is also a component of some buprenorphine-based medications.
The FDA stated that these medications are safe when professionals administer them along with proper psychological support. Also, the FDA recommends that professionals explain all options to patients to help them find the right medication for their needs. Since there is no maximum recommended duration for administration, professionals can use them in MAT even after patients leave rehab.
Heroin and prescription opioids are full agonists, which means that they bind to receptors and produce full effects. Many of the medications in MAT are opioid antagonists. They block the effects of opioids. Some are also partial agonists, meaning that they only produce a partial effect that is similar to an agonist’s effects. For example, buprenorphine is a partial agonist. Therapy with opioid antagonists or partial agonists helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These benefits make them useful in inpatient and long-term MAT plans.
Medications for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Medications for alcohol addiction treatment can help prevent cravings or make alcohol consumption unpleasant. There are three main medications that professionals use:
Acamprosate is a substance that helps reduce cravings. However, it cannot prevent withdrawal symptoms if people continue drinking. People start taking it about the fifth day of abstinence, and it usually reaches its full effectiveness by the eighth day of use.
Disulfiram is an effective deterrent. It creates unpleasant side effects when people consume alcohol after taking it. Also, it creates the same effects if people take it while they are already intoxicated. Since the effects are lasting, it works well for supporting recovery.
Also used for opiate addiction treatment, naltrexone acts on the brain to block euphoric effects. In people with alcohol abuse disorder, this boosts motivation to reduce alcohol use, avoid relapse and stay in recovery.
Medications for Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Xanax (alprazolam) is one of the most commonly abused benzodiazepines. There are two complicating factors with this type of substance abuse. First, people develop a tolerance to it. Second, the substance does not have long-lasting effects. It’s easy for people to take larger doses than they should at more frequent intervals.
Professionals often use a tapering-off method for MAT, which involves switching to a longer-acting benzo. Because of this, benzo detox takes considerably longer than a detox for other types of drugs. Physicians may prescribe other types of medications for anxiety or depression for people who use benzodiazepines for a mental health condition at the time they seek treatment.
Using Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse in Detox
There are several reasons why professionals use medication assisted treatment for substance abuse during detox. It can help reduce substance-seeking urges. Although a person who is in a residential treatment setting does not have access to illegal drugs, the withdrawal symptoms are difficult to cope with. MAT during detox helps people feel more comfortable and supports healthier brain chemistry.
Additionally, maintaining MAT after detox helps prevent relapse. Many people wind up relapsing multiple times after detox if they do not have medication. From a health care perspective, there are also several benefits of using MAT:
- Safer than non-medication-assisted treatments
- Cost-effective because of fewer relapse risks
- Reduces risks for infectious disease transmission
- Boosts an individual’s social function
- Reduces the likelihood of criminal activity
How Does MAT Ease Withdrawal Symptoms During Detox?
As noted before, MAT for opioid abuse often involves opioid antagonists and partial agonists. Without medication assisted treatment for substance abuse, opioid withdrawal is painful. Some treatments, such as methadone, change the brain’s response and perception of pain to provide pain relief during detox.
Professionals may also prescribe other medications to treat diarrhea, nausea, headaches, irritability, gastrointestinal issues or other unpleasant symptoms. A professional assesses each patient to determine the appropriate medication combination.
With alcohol addiction treatment, MAT can help prevent serious side effects related to alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). AWS often leads to tremors, nausea, headaches, hallucinations, anxiety, and even seizures. Medication in a supervised setting may prevent or ease some of these symptoms. Also, professionals often prescribe sedatives to help offset mood-related symptoms.
Ongoing Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse
As more positive research surfaces, the popularity of medication assisted treatment for substance abuse will likely grow. Since it addresses the complexities of brain chemistry changes, it may have an indefinite duration for some individuals. Depending on the substance and the individual’s unique needs, a medical professional can make this decision.
In a study of MAT for opioid addiction, researchers interviewed the participants at various intervals to see if they were sober or dependent on any pain relievers. At 42 months, 61% were abstinent for the past month, and most were no longer reliant on pain relievers.
In addition to its usefulness in long-term treatment of addiction, MAT is beneficial in ongoing dual diagnosis treatment. For example, researchers found that patients who had a history of depression and went through opioid MAT with Suboxone were twice as likely to stay in recovery as those who did not use Suboxone.
Finding Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse in Florida
For help overcoming addiction for you or a loved one, please know that we are here for you. Our understanding professionals in Riviera Beach thrive on helping people beat addiction and live happier lives. Intrepid Detox has a variety of treatment options that address individual factors. To learn more about MAT for substance abuse, please contact us.