What is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a rehabilitative treatment model that supplements behavioral therapy with FDA-approved medications to treat patients who have substance use disorders. Unlike other less-intensive outpatient services, MAT programs take a much-needed “whole-patient” approach to treating substance use disorders.
What is medication-assisted treatment?

It is one of the most effective methods of addiction treatment that combines non-habit-forming medications and therapy. Numerous studies have shown that medication-assisted treatment programs have overwhelmingly positive rates of success. In fact, patients who complete MAT programs tend to achieve and maintain sobriety more often than those who do not enter MAT.

However, it is important to note that MAT is not a stand-alone treatment approach. Rather, it is one step in a multi-step process. Recovery should always start with detoxification.

The Importance of MAT in Treatment

The opioid addiction and overdose epidemic has been on the rise over the last several years. Unfortunately, it shows little signs of slowing down. But that may change with the medication-assisted treatment movement.

Increasing public awareness and availability of MAT programs can help combat the opioid crisis. In fact, evidence from a wide variety of studies shows that MAT programs are one of the most effective ways of battling widespread opioid addiction. Moreover, several opioid-antagonist and partial-agonist medications already on the market can treat opioid use disorder.

Recently, behavioral health organizations and healthcare professionals have made a point to share this vital information when addressing the popular question: what is medication-assisted treatment?

The Benefits of MAT

The benefits of MAT go beyond sobriety and post-rehab abstinence. For example, by including MAT programs in their treatment plans, substance use disorder patients can expect:

-little to no cravings
-lower risk of relapse
-a smoother transition into a sober lifestyle
-minimal withdrawal symptoms during rehab
-participation in therapy without distractions (e.g., cravings)

Additionally, years of research and numerous studies conducted by both government organizations and private institutions have shown that medically assisted treatment has overwhelmingly positive effects in addiction rehab. For this reason, many credible organizations encourage the utilization of MAT in addiction rehab. MAT is strongly supported by:

-DCF
-CDC
-WHO
-ASAM
-FADAA
-SAMHSA

How MAT Works

Opioid dependence, like most other forms of addiction, is challenging to overcome without help. This is mostly because the withdrawal symptoms brought on by quitting are intense. In fact, most opioid users continue their drug use just to avoid the pain and discomfort of withdrawal, more specifically the unrelenting cravings. So, in their efforts to feel normal, many people with substance use disorders are trapped by their habits, unable to quit successfully. At WAVE, we completely understand this dilemma and offer a safe and effective way in which to gain freedom from the relentless and life-ending active disease of addiction.

Patients who enter MAT programs after detox have the opportunity to address the causes of their substance use disorders as they take medication to treat any lingering withdrawal symptoms. Like most addiction treatment models, MAT utilizes individual therapy, group counseling, support from both staff and peers, and long-term aftercare.

Positive Outcomes for MAT Patients

Various studies have shown positive outcomes for patients in MAT programs for substance use disorder. One such finding is the overall reduction of addiction-related mortality rates by more than half. Other documented results of MAT for substance use disorder patients include:

-lowered rates of relapse
-reduced risk of drug overdose
-diminished rates of criminal activity
-greater savings (i.e., cost-effectiveness)
-higher rates of SUD treatment retention
-increased hope for the future and self-worth
-improved physical and cognitive functioning
-greater post-treatment employment opportunities
-reduced rate of abscess infection, contraction of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis

The Growing Need for MAT Programs

Despite the evidence-based positive effects of MAT, the majority of treatment facilities in the United States do not possess the treatment capacity necessary to provide MAT to patients who have an opioid or other substance use disorder. Right now, less than half of privately-funded addiction treatment programs offer MAT. Of those that do, only one-third of opioid addiction patients ever receive it.

In the midst of the opioid crisis, communities across the country are demanding more MAT services for substance use disorder treatment and relapse prevention. Increasing access to addiction-fighting medications and the treatment services that utilize them is critical to turning the tide of the opioid crisis.