What is Medication Assisted Treatment for Addiction? Everything You Should Know

Medication assisted treatment can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms for those going through detox.

Table of Contents

What is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Medication assisted treatment programs are designed to help you achieve sobriety and recovery when you suffer from opioid or alcohol addiction symptoms. However, it is important to remember that MAT is not a standalone treatment for addiction, but rather a critical element in a three-part process. As part of a MAT recovery program, medications, evidence-based addiction treatment counseling, and peer and family support work together to help you achieve lasting recovery.

MAT is the term used to describe using specific medications, combined with substance abuse counseling and therapy, to offer a holistic approach to addiction treatment. The drugs used as part of a medication-assisted treatment program are all FDA-approved. MAT guidelines, such as dosing and the type of drug used, are tailored to meet each patient’s needs.1

medication assisted treatment

Medication Assisted Treatment Overview

Does MAT Really Work?

Studies indicate the success rate of medication assisted treatment is strong. Because medication-assisted therapy reduces the intensity and difficulties associated with cravings, it allows addicts in recovery to focus on healing and recovering. Some statistics suggest the success rate of medication-assisted treatment is up to 90% at the two-year mark.2

Despite the proven success rate, substance abuse MAT options are not as well utilized as they could be. Medication-assisted treatment statistics from a 2019 survey suggest less than 35% of adults with an opioid use disorder who could benefit from a MAT program received treatment for opioid addiction in the past year.3

What is the Goal of Medication Assisted Treatment?

When you are ready to begin your journey toward recovery, your Soledad House highly educated recovery program professional will help you determine if MAT services are right for your treatment needs.

The first step in treatment is often an assessment to help you create your personalized addiction treatment plan. The assessment allows your treatment team to learn more about your general health and any other medical or mental health concerns that should be addressed as part of treatment. During this initial meeting with your treatment provider, you will learn about MAT for addiction treatment and what you can expect as part of a MAT program at the Soledad House.

Medication Assisted Recovery Program Goals

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During an initial assessment, you will also learn about the goals of medication-assisted recovery. The objectives of opioid MAT will vary from person to person, as each person who enters treatment to overcome addiction will have a set of unique needs. In general, however, there are a few basic goals for any program that uses MAT treatment for opioid addiction.

Stabilize Your Mind and Body

The first goal is to stabilize your mind and body. The first days of quitting opioids or alcohol can be challenging. Withdrawal symptoms accompanying detoxing from drugs or alcohol can occur in as little as six hours after your last drink and within a few short hours after the last dose of drugs. 

Opioid and alcohol withdrawal symptoms will cause various physical and emotional effects, which can be challenging to manage without treatment assistance. One of the key benefits of medication assisted treatment is that the medications used in a MAT program can help reduce the intensity of cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.

Gain Control Over Signs and Symptoms

Once medically assisted treatment has helped to stabilize your body and mind, you will gain the traction you need to begin your journey towards sobriety and recovery. Again, the first days of addiction treatment are often a complex combination of physical and psychological signs and symptoms. As you work to gain control over withdrawal signs and symptoms such as cravings and headaches, or emotional symptoms including anxiety and depression, MAT works to control your signs and symptoms so you can focus on what matters most: taking the first steps towards healing and recovery.

As previously mentioned, a significant benefit of MAT is how it helps control emotional and physical withdrawal signs and symptoms. What withdrawal looks like for you will be different for someone else. However, everyone who enters an addiction treatment program to detox and overcome addictions to opioids and alcohol will inevitably experience some type of withdrawal symptoms.

What Kind of Symptoms?

Depending on the nature and severity of your addiction, withdrawal signs and symptoms may be mild and easily managed without significant medical intervention. However, others, primarily those with severe addictions or who have completed treatment before and experienced relapse, often experience more severe and more complex withdrawal signs and symptoms. 

Programs that use MAT treatment for opioid addiction management help you progress through detox during withdrawal in the safest and most comfortable manner possible. One of the primary benefits of medication-assisted treatment is easing the pain or discomfort associated with mental and physical withdrawal signs and symptoms, regardless of the substance you are detoxing from. This allows the detox process to progress more smoothly, ensuring you can soon transition into the therapeutic portion of a treatment program.

Recover Safely and Comfortably

Research shows that MAT treatment for opioid addiction is a safe and effective way to help make your journey towards achieving sobriety more comfortable. By assisting with reducing withdrawal signs and symptoms by minimizing cravings, MAT can help you become sober and transition into the therapeutic portion of a treatment program.

Addiction Treatment Program

MAT substance abuse programs work alongside comprehensive addiction treatment. Although there are many benefits of medication assisted treatment, MAT programs do not equip you with the skills and tools you need to better understand addiction and to develop the coping skills necessary to manage triggering situations after treatment ends. 

Once you have successfully detoxed, completing an addiction treatment program is crucial. The duration, intensity, and type of treatment program that best helps you meet your treatment goals will be developed by working closely with your treatment providers at Soledad House. By embracing a range of proven therapeutic models combined with MAT services, members of our treatment team can help you put medication addiction in the past.

Types of MAT Medications

medication assisted treatment

Several types of medications are used in MAT for opioid addiction and other medication-assisted treatment programs. A few of the most common are discussed below.


Before the increased use of Suboxone, methadone medication-assisted treatment was a primary part of many opioid medically assisted treatment programs. Methadone received initial approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1940s. However, in time, medical and mental health providers started seeing various potentially dangerous side effects associated with methadone use, including high overdose rates, abuse, and addiction. As such, Vivitrol and Sublocade are considered safer alternatives.


Buprenorphine is an opioid drug stronger than morphine; however, its effectiveness as an opioid agonist makes it beneficial in MAT. Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid agonist in the brain, meaning it works to keep other opioids from affecting the body by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and the nervous system. This helps patients in addiction treatment wean themselves off opioids while minimizing the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Buprenorphine is unlikely to cause the intense euphoric and sedative effects of other opioid drugs, but it helps satisfy cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms. As part of a MAT substance abuse treatment program, buprenorphine addicts in recovery fully engage in therapy and other rehab activities.

Sublocade is a form of buprenorphine that is considered safer to use than other medications such as methadone.


Naloxone is a medication used in MAT centers and other medical environments to reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose. Naltrexone, like methadone, works as a total opioid agonist by blocking and reversing the effects of opioid drugs on the brain and nervous system.

Naloxone is included as an ingredient in Suboxone to prevent people from overdosing on buprenorphine. It helps minimize the risk of relapse by preventing the addictive and euphoric sensations many experience when using opioids. Naltrexone is also effective at reducing the intensity of symptoms related to alcohol detox in a MAT substance abuse program.

Vivitrol is a form of naltrexone that is often used for opioid withdrawal. It is considered a safer choice over medications such as methadone and Suboxone.

What MAT Therapy Treats?

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Medically assisted treatment is mainly used for treating opioid addiction such as heroin and prescription opioids (painkillers). They help patients in a MAT recovery program manage the more severe and unpleasant symptoms of opioid detox and withdrawal. In addition to opioid detox, substance abuse medication-assisted treatment is proven effective for stimulant and alcohol detox, even if it isn’t used quite as often.

MAT Effectiveness

As noted above, statistics support the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment. Statistics suggest that up to 90% of those who participate in a medication-assisted treatment program to overcome addiction will maintain sobriety for at least two years, and in many cases, for even longer.

In addition to helping addicts in recovery maintain sobriety, the various types of medication-assisted treatment also help improve patient survival rates, increase treatment retention rates, decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders, and increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment after treatment.

How Long Does Medication Assisted Treatment Last?

The speed at which you progress through addiction treatment will depend on several factors. Because everyone achieves their treatment goals at different rates, there is no set time frame for how long medication assisted treatment lasts. In general, most MAT programs last for ninety days or longer.4

Research shows that the best treatment outcomes arise from a longer treatment duration. In some cases, such as methadone maintenance programs, individuals continue to benefit from MAT for more than one year. If your provider deems medication-assisted treatment is medically necessary to help you achieve sobriety, many insurance plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) will cover your treatment.5

Possible Drawbacks of Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication assisted treatment outcomes support choosing a program that offers MAT for addiction recovery. However, while there are many medication assisted treatment benefits, there are potential drawbacks as well. The possible disadvantages of medication assisted treatment for drug addiction will affect each person differently.

Potential Complications and Consequences

For many, the positive medication-assisted treatment benefits far outweigh the potential negative factors. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks.

Typical examples of MAT substance abuse treatment drawbacks may include:

  • MAT requires close medical supervision at a facility certified to provide MAT medications
  • The powerful medications used in MAT may have undesirable side effects.
  • The medications provide the potential for misuse or abuse if not monitored.
  • There is the risk of trading one addiction for another

Medication Assisted Treatment Misconceptions

Who Should Consider Medication Assisted Treatment?

If you suffer from alcohol or opioid addiction, deciding to seek treatment to get sober may be one of the most complex decisions you make. However, getting help to overcome your addiction safely is essential to achieving lasting recovery. If the early days of addiction treatment proved difficult or if you had completed addiction treatment before and experienced relapse, MAT might be able to help you reach your long-term sobriety goals.

Opioid withdrawal cravings and symptoms are challenging to manage. If you have a severe addiction, MAT services can reduce feelings of irritability and edginess during the early stages of detox, treatment, and recovery. Below are some instances when you or your loved one should consider MAT.

Have You Previously Tried Treatment?

Suppose you have tried other treatment methods such as residential rehab or an outpatient treatment program, including behavioral therapies and peer support groups, and your ability to succeed was dramatically limited or even stifled by withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In that case, MAT for opioid addiction might be able to help.

Can You Safely Avoid Potentials for Relapse During and After Treatment?

Another question to consider is whether you can safely avoid potentials for relapse during and after treatment. If drugs or alcohol are easily accessible in your home environment or within your community, these might be difficult to manage without some type of assistance.

Consistent exposure to these instances puts you at increased risk of relapse. Unfortunately, relapse is not uncommon among those who have recently completed an addiction treatment program. Data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse tells us that relapse rates for addiction are similar to those of other chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes. Statistically, as many as 40% to 60% of people with addiction will experience relapse after treatment.6

What Else Will You Learn?

It is vital to remember that relapse is not indicative of treatment failure; however, a sign that you might need a different type or level of care to achieve lasting sobriety. If you have completed treatment and experienced relapse, you could benefit from integrating MAT services into your rehab program.

Soledad House will help you focus on preventing relapse prevention with extended care, aftercare programs, sober living, and alumni programs. These will help to build your solid foundation for recovery. They also offer a buffer as you reintegrate into the real world. You will sharpen your toolkit and building blocks for strong communication, conflict management, and self-awareness. You will also develop a strong support network that you can continue to lean on as you maintain sobriety.

What is the Severity of Your Addiction?

Your Soledad House professional will help you assess the severity of your addiction when considering the best types of therapies to achieve and maintain sobriety. If you have a more severe addiction, then you may also experience withdrawal signs and symptoms of greater intensity than someone with a mild addiction. Without MAT services and the support of highly educated and experienced professionals, these withdrawal signs and symptoms may become difficult to manage, leading to relapse.

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Embracing Medication Assisted Treatment

Embracing medication assisted treatment can help you better manage your signs and symptoms. Thereby, allowing you to progress towards sobriety and overcome cravings and other relapse causes. Some people worry about incorporating MAT because they believe that it is essentially substituting one drug for another. This unfortunate misconception causes many individuals who could benefit from MAT treatment to avoid these programs.

MAT focuses on helping you actively engage in recovery without addiction’s pressures and challenges overpowering your sober determinations. MAT helps to reduce the power of these conflicting signs and symptoms. It is possible to use MAT for weeks, months, or years before tapering down your dose and stopping medication assisted treatment entirely. If you have been unsuccessful in the past, MAT can help you achieve your sobriety goals without exchanging one dependency for another.

Medication Assisted Treatment: a Potentially Life Changing Opportunity

Consider Medication Assisted Treatment at Soledad House

Although overcoming addiction is challenging, MAT can help. When combined with therapy, peer support groups, and relapse prevention skills training, medication assisted treatment can help you achieve your sobriety and recovery goals. Our caring and compassionate treatment team will help you take the first steps towards lasting wellness.

Contact us today to learn more about medication assisted treatment benefits and our personalized addiction treatment programs in our safe, supportive space for women to recover.