Medication Based Treatment?

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for You?

When you want to get clean from drugs and alcohol, it's important to consider all of the options available. Some recommend stopping cold turkey, while others say you can't do it without rehab. Some swear by 12-step programs and then there are those who recommend partaking in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment combines traditional aspects of drug and alcohol treatment, such as inpatient rehab and behavioral therapy, with medication specifically designed for addiction. While some believe MAT programs are controversial, this multi-level approach to addiction is reducing the burden of addiction costs on both our criminal justice and healthcare systems. Its opponents state that the medications used to MAT programs are just as addictive and act like a crutch to those who are seeking sobriety. It's true — these medications are strong — and for some, they may become a crutch. But just like when your ankle's broken, sometimes you need a crutch to become strong enough to walk on your own.

Types of Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs?

  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is the first addiction medication allowed to be prescribed by an authorized physician and does not require the patient to attend a dosing facility. The active ingredient in both Suboxone and Subutex, buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, meaning it binds to the same receptors in the brain that opiates, such as pain killers and morphine, do. This reduces withdrawal symptoms, but does not create the same high that users experience.
  • Naloxone: Also found in Suboxone, naloxone is an opioid antagonist, attaching to the receptor, blocking others chemicals from doing so. This reverses the toxic effect of opiate drugs and naloxone is often given to prevent overdose. When taking naloxone, taking an opiate won't get you high.
  • Methadone: Available since the 1960s, methadone has a reputation for greatness and evil. Only available through an opioid treatment program (OTP), patients must go to their OTP often, sometimes daily, to get their dose of methadone. It's slower acting and stronger than other commonly abused opiates, reducing the cravings and need to engage in recreational use. When combined with successful treatment, people can wean off methadone after stabilizing and live a fulfilling life in recovery.
  • Naltrexone: Another controversial addiction medication, naltrexone works for to stop the cravings for both opiates and alcohol. It's a blocker and non-addictive, but has caused people to struggle with compliance. Before beginning naltrexone, the patient must completely detox first, not using any substance, including Suboxone and methadone, for at least five to seven days. Once taken, even if you get high, you won't feel the effects of the drug. It's available in the prescriptions RiVia, a daily pill, and Vivitrol, a 30-day injection.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for You?

If you're motivated to get clean, but have tried and been unsuccessful in the past, medication-assisted treatment may be right for you. It takes dedication. It takes time. And it takes changing the way you think and behave. But for many, the multi-layered approach that MAT programs offer has lead the way to a life that at one point seemed impossible.