Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Discover how medication-assisted treatment can help treat addictions, such as opioid use disorder.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) utilizes a combination of approved medications and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. MAT treatment is typically used to treat opioid use disorder; however, it is also effective for alcohol use disorder and other addictions.

Medication-assisted treatment guidelines, federal statutes, and regulations govern the use of medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction. All addiction treatment centers must complete compulsory medication-assisted treatment training to qualify for and provide MAT services. Recent data shows that approximately 1.27 million people in the United States are receiving MAT for addiction.1


Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Really Work?

Anyone undergoing MAT for drug addiction reduces their chances of death and other complications from the harmful substance of abuse. When weighing the medication-assisted treatment pros and cons, its success rates and benefits make it clear that it is an effective program.

 For instance, medication-assisted treatment outcomes include lower rates of criminal activity, reduced risk behavior related to hepatitis C and HIV, and abstinence from or decreased use of substances. 

What Does MAT Therapy Work For?

Generally, medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse reduces cravings, blocks the euphoric effects of drugs, and relieves withdrawal symptoms. A successful medication-assisted treatment program begins with detoxification. For people dependent on a substance, going through the detox process can be detrimental due to withdrawal symptoms. As a result, due to its effectiveness in reducing withdrawal symptoms, MAT programs are utilized in nearly 80% of detoxifications.2

Medically assisted therapy helps combat withdrawal symptoms in the following substance detox processes:

Alcohol Detox

If the body is alcohol dependent, detoxing will cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. There aren’t many alcohol detox medications that can prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring, so the majority of MAT drugs work best once detox is complete.

In a medically assisted treatment center like Soledad House, trained professionals support patients throughout the process to ensure safety and comfort.

Stimulant Detox

Painful withdrawal symptoms are enough to deter anyone suffering from drug addiction from seeking treatment. Using MAT for addiction treatment can help in the detox process to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings.

Opioid Detox

Opioid withdrawal syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by opioid dependency. Therefore, during opioid detox, pharmacological management of opioid withdrawal using MAT recovery medications is needed.

What Medications Are Included in MAT?

Medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder involves the use of three FDA-approved medications alongside therapy.

 The types of medication-assisted treatment medications for substance use disorder will be detailed below.

Buprenorphine Medications

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist used in MAT treatment for opioid use disorder. Research shows that this medication helps decrease opioid use and is associated with high treatment retention rates.3

 Buprenorphine medication-assisted treatment benefits over full opioid agonists like methadone because it is not addictive and cannot cause an overdose. Additionally, one study found that overdose and suicide deaths occurred 4.33 times less frequently in patients who received buprenorphine treatment compared to those who did not.4

Buprenorphine Products for Opioid Use Disorder

Here are some Buprenorphine products used for opioid use disorder:

  • Suboxone (combined with naloxone)
  • Subutex
  • Butrans
  • Sublocade
  • Belbuca

Naltrexone Medications

Naltrexone is used in MAT for addiction to alcohol and opioids. Unlike other FDA-approved drugs for opioid use disorder, naltrexone is not an opioid. It helps to block the euphoric effects of opioids and suppress opioid cravings. Furthermore, this medication is not addictive and does not cause withdrawal symptoms when patients stop using it.

Naltrexone can be available as:

  • Vivitrol
  • Depade
  • Contrave

Naloxone Medications

Naloxone is a MAT recovery medication that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. It binds to opioid receptors, reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids.

Some naloxone products are:

  • Suboxone (combined with buprenorphine)
  • Narcan
  • Evzio
  • Kloxxado

Vivitrol and Sublocade

Sublocade is a type of buprenorphine medicine used to overcome opioid withdrawal. This medication is used every month to continuously release a sustained level of buprenorphine into a person’s system.Vivitrol is a form of naltrexone. This medication reduces a person’s “need” to use opioids so they can move past the withdrawal stage more efficiently. Both Vivitrol and Sublocade are considered to be safer alternatives to other MAT medications such as methadone.

MAT Effectiveness

When examining the medication-assisted treatment statistics and medication-assisted treatment outcomes from different studies, it is clear that MAT is an effective program for drug addiction treatment.

The success rate of medication-assisted treatment from these studies suggests that a substantial percentage of people who undergo MAT treatment respond positively to the treatment. For example, one study examining the effectiveness of the MAT program for individuals with opioid use disorder found that after a one-year follow-up, 84% of participants remained abstinent from opioids, and 62% remained abstinent from all illicit substances.5

Medication-Assisted Treatment Statistics

In addition, after six months of MAT treatment, one study found that heroin use decreased by 31.7%, opioid use decreased by 11.3%, and alcohol use decreased by 15.5%. Furthermore, patients experienced improvements in physical and mental health and a reduction in symptoms.6

Benefits of MAT

Some medication-assisted treatment benefits include:

  • Improve patient survival
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment

Myths Surrounding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction

Several misconceptions about opioid medically assisted treatment have dissuade people from considering it as an option for opioid addiction. For example, 12-Step programs believe that medication-assisted therapy is simply replacing one addiction with another.

 In reality, 12-Step and MAT programs are both essential for opioid use disorder treatment—the 12-Steps offer support during and after the recovery journey, while MAT therapy helps people complete treatment and avoid relapse. Some other myths that surround medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence will be discussed below.

MAT Just Trades One Addiction for Another

Substance use disorder is a chronic disease. Taking MAT medications for opioid use disorder is equivalent to taking medications for other chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer. When taken as prescribed, medicine is safe and effective. 

MAT Is Only for the Short Term

According to research, people who stay in MAT for longer periods (at least ninety days) have higher chances of long-term success. 

MAT Will Disrupt the Recovery Process

Medically-assisted treatment is a major part of the recovery process. Medications can reduce and alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, improving the chances of long-lasting recovery. 

MAT Is Not Covered by Most Insurance Plans

With a doctor’s approval, patients can obtain MAT treatment coverage from their insurance company. Find out your options by contacting your insurance company. 

How Long Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Last?

A MAT plan may last a couple of months to years. The deciding factors include the patient’s needs, the type and dose of MAT medications, how the patient responds to the medication-assisted treatment program, and if they can build a solid support system after the program.

Do the MAT Medications Cure Me?

The MAT medications alone may not be enough to help treat opioid use disorder. Thus, in addition to medications, the medication-assisted treatment program should include therapy, life-skills training, and education.

 A MAT plan that contains these components will increase the chances of long-term recovery.

Get Medication Assisted Treatment at Soledad House 

Soledad House is a medication-assisted treatment center in the US with qualified, patient-focused staff. The medical professionals at Soledad House have undergone the necessary medication-assisted treatment training to provide quality services and support to each individual.

 Contact us today to discuss a unique MAT plan for you or your loved one.

Contact Soledad House to Learn More

Our team is standing by to discuss treatment options with you. Your call is completely confidential and no obligation is required.


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