It is no secret that withdrawing from drugs is an experience many don’t look forward to. Sadly, a number of people avoid treatment entirely out of fear of the detoxing and withdrawal experience. Fortunately, however, new research has emerged in recent years that significantly reduces the impacts of withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the use of FDA approved medications in conjunction with therapy to help people withdraw from opioids and begin the recovery process as comfortably as possible. It has been proven to increase the sustainability of recovery and the chances of successfully maintaining a life of peace and freedom from addiction.
What is medication-assisted treatment?
Firstly, MAT for opioids is not replacing one drug with another. Instead, under the careful supervision of a medical doctor, it is the prescription of particular non-addictive medicine to help reduce the effects of withdrawal for someone who has spent a significant amount of time under the influence of opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers.
According to SAMHSA, MAT medications help to:
- Return brain chemistry to normal;
- Block opioids euphoric effects, helping to reduce the temptation to use again;
- Relieve physiological cravings;
- Allow bodily functions to return to normal without the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal.
One of the greatest benefits to incorporating medically-assisted treatment is the increased rate of a successful recovery. Other benefits to MAT for opioid addiction also includes:
- Increased employment retention rate;
- Decreasing the use of opioids among people with substance use disorders;
- Reducing the risk of death from overdose;
- Boosting treatment retention rates;
- Incorporating a holistic, body and mind, approach to treatment;
- Helping prevent relapse when used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and counseling.
While MAT doesn’t fully take away every difficulty resulting from an opioid addiction, it can help you successfully reset your life by giving you a greater chance at recovery.
What medications are used to treat opioid addiction?
There are three main medications currently approved for use during opioid addiction treatment: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
Methadone is an opioid agonist that reduces the uncomfortable and painful symptoms of withdrawal from opiates while blocking the euphoric high felt after ingesting an opioid.
It has been used for decades to help people with addictions, as well as support babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome as they wean off opioids. Methadone is available in pill, liquid and water form. It is taken once a day, often under the supervision of a physician at a methadone clinic that offers counseling to its patients.
Buprenorphine, commonly known by its brand name, Suboxone, is another common opioid agonist. Being opioid agonists, both methadone and buprenorphine activate the opioid receptors in the brain. However, since buprenorphine is only a partial agonist, it activates the opioid receptors in the brain to a lesser extent than methadone does.
Another similarity between methadone and buprenorphine is buprenorphine’s ability to minimize the effects of opioid withdrawal. It blocks the positive feelings associated with being high on an opioid. However, one key difference between methadone and buprenorphine is that buprenorphine can be prescribed by a physician so that clients can take their medication at home every day without having to go to a clinic.
Naltrexone is another medication that can be prescribed by a physician so that clients can take their medication from their homes. It is an opioid antagonist that is taken daily in a pill form.
Being an opioid antagonist, Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and positive effects of opioids without activating the opioid receptors in the brain. Because of this, it cannot be used to ease the effects of opioid withdrawal. Naltrexone can also be taken in the form of a monthly injection, which must be done at a doctor’s office.
Medication-assisted treatment is now, more than ever, offered for clients seeking treatment and recovery from opioid addiction. Not only can it provide you relief from the physical health conditions of opioid addiction, it can help you maintain your recovery and begin your life over again, free and peaceful.
Rehab After Work offers multiple levels of therapy, including intensive outpatient, general outpatient and individual counseling, as well as medication-assisted treatment. Contact our intake department today at 610-644-6464 to explore your options for addressing your opioid use disorder.