Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a relatively new form of treating clients in a drug rehab environment. It’s been met with some resistance based on its use of medications along with therapy, but it has shown great promise for those struggling with opioid addiction. Opiate addiction has been one of the worst public health crises of our time, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
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A staggering 130 people in the United States die daily from a combination of prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Each year, we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of deaths from these drugs. Researchers have been seeking the best possible solution as a means to treat this public health crisis.
In 2017 alone, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose. During that same year, 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. In that same span, another 652,000 struggled with heroin addiction.
Statistics found that between 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and 8 to 12 percent of those individuals will develop opioid use disorder (OUD). If there is any silver lining to this crisis, it’s that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing its efforts on five major priorities:
- Improving access to treatment and recovery services
- Promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs
- Strengthening the understanding of the epidemic
- Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain addiction
- Advancing better practices for pain management
All of these initiatives that have been put through are solidifying the necessity for new solutions such as MAT. Let’s take an in-depth look at what medication-assisted treatment consists of and what makes it beneficial.
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. MAT is primarily used to treat opioids such as heroin or prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The sole purpose of the medication in MAT is to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the adverse effects of the abused drug.
Fortunately, the medications that MAT uses are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and each program is tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. Using these medications in conjunction with anxiety medications can have grave consequences; these medications include benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium.
What Drugs Are Approved?
Currently, there are three drugs approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. These are:
These treatments have all been tested and shown not only to be effective but are promoted for their safety as well. Anyone who seeks treatment for an OUD should be offered access to any of these options as it allows the providers to work with the client without limitations. OUD is chronic by nature, and the need to continue MAT should be reevaluated from time to time. Currently, there is no maximum recommended duration for the treatment, but some clients will be put on a medication regimen indefinitely.
How Does MAT Help Treat Opioid Addiction?
When an individual becomes dependent on opioid drugs to function daily, they will feel sick when no opioids occupy their bodies. The sickness is often referred to as withdrawal, and withdrawal can be met with intense cravings and an insatiable desire to obtain more drugs. When these two are combined, they can create difficulties during the recovery process. The medications administered remedy both withdrawal and sickness.
In addition to tailoring medications to address cravings and withdrawal, the client will take part in a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses behavioral issues and supports their recovery.
Why Serenity at Summit for Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Serenity at Summit has adopted the principles of individualized treatment. The more research that has been put into successful outcomes about clients exiting drug rehab, the more we have learned a tailored approach is mandatory. Serenity is part of the Delphi Behavioral Health Group family, meaning there is not a cookie-cutter approach to treating addiction.
We understand that addiction is a challenge to overcome, but with the knowledge of our experienced clinicians, it is treatable.
Module 5: Assessing and Addressing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). (n.d.). Retrieved from from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/training/oud/accessible/index.html
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Information by Drug Class - Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Retrieved from from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/informationbydrugclass/ucm600092.htm
Lynne.walsh. (2015, June 15). Medication and Counseling Treatment. Retrieved from from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment
Secretary Price Announces HHS Strategy for Fighting Opioid Crisis. (2018, March 08). Retrieved from from https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/secretary/speeches/2017-speeches/secretary-price-announces-hhs-strategy-for-fighting-opioid-crisis/index.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis