Some people believe very strongly that the only effective approach to addiction treatment is one that focuses on abstinence.
This is not the case. There simply isn’t one treatment approach that will work for everyone.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses FDA-approved medications, along with counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat substance abuse. Generally used to treat people addicted to opioids or alcohol, the prescribed medication is given to:
- Relieve cravings
- Block the sense of euphoria (“high”) of the abused substance
- Normalize body functions without negative effects of the addictive drug
Medication Used to Treat Substance Abuse
Methadone is synthetic opioid that is used to treat chronic or terminal pain. It’s also used for addiction maintenance treatment, which prevents opioid withdrawal and reduces cravings.
Clients on methadone treatment receive a dose once daily. Once clients are on a stable dose of methadone, they feel normal and are able to participate in their regular activities, such as going to work or school. The methadone blocks the high from other opioids, which reduces use of drugs in this class.
Buprenorphine is another opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction. Available under the name Suboxone, this drug is also used for opioid withdrawal and as a pain medication.
When used to treat opioid addiction, this medication is given as a pill. Instead of swallowing it, the user dissolves the pill under his tongue. At the correct dose, the drug can reduce cravings without creating a high or making the person feel sleepy. It is used in conjunction with supportive therapy as part of an overall treatment plan.
Naltrexone is used to treat alcoholism. It also blocks the effects of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone.
Scientists aren’t certain exactly how this medication works for people with an alcohol dependence. Participants in studies on the effectiveness of this drug in treating alcohol abuse report that it reduces cravings and the desire to continue drinking if a slip occurs. Naltrexone isn’t used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, however.
Disulfiram is a medication used to treat chronic alcoholism. When someone takes this medication and then drinks alcohol, she will experience unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, headache, sweating, and facial flushing. The symptoms, which start approximately 10 minutes after even a small amount of alcohol is ingested, last for an hour or more. The drug is used to discourage clients from drinking and is not considered a cure for alcoholism.
What Makes Someone a Good Candidate for MAT?
When a new client enters a drug and alcohol treatment program, he is evaluated to determine the following:
- Types of substances being abused
- Severity of the addiction
- If there are any co-occurring mental health issues requiring treatment
- Whether there are any other physical health problems
The results of the assessment will be used when staff make the decision whether a client would be a good candidate for MAT. A client would be a good fit for this treatment plan if they meet the following criteria:
- Have been diagnosed with opioid addiction or alcoholism
- Have had their treatment options explained to them
- Agree to comply with taking their medication as directed
- Don’t have any health issues that may preclude them from taking the required medication
If a particular client coming into a drug and alcohol treatment program is not a good candidate for MAT, he participates in an individualized program tailored to his needs and treatment goals without the types of medications listed above.