MAT stands for Medication-Assisted Treatment, and is the use of one or more medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. Although many people associate it with opioid addiction, there are several medications appropriate for treating other addictions as well.
Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs)
With the national spotlight on opioid-related overdose deaths for several years now, MAT programs for opioids have also gained in significance. To combat the record numbers of fatalities, more professionals are recommending medication-assisted treatments for people addicted to substances such as heroin and prescription painkillers.
The most commonly used medications in this category include methadone and buprenorphine. Both are prescribed as long-term maintenance or replacement drugs, and although they are both also opioids, do not produce the same euphoric effects as the substances that people have become addicted to. While many people who begin taking methadone stay on it for several years, there are instances where buprenorphine is used in shorter treatment timelines, such as in an ambulatory detox setting to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Suboxone is a brand name medication that combines buprenorphine with naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist. Today there are generic forms of this medication available, as well as an injectable form called Sublocade. The implant or injection releases the medication over a 30-day period. This helps reduce the habit of taking daily medication as well as potentially allows for a gradual reduction in cravings or symptoms through the timed release, although many people continue to receive their monthly injections.
Naloxone is also used to reverse an overdose. It usually comes in the form of a nasal spray or injectable as well. Brand names include Narcan and Evzio. Naloxone is the medication that is being advocated for all first responders to carry with them to help save lives from overdose.
Naltrexone is another medication used to help reduce cravings, and is approved for the treatment of both opioid addiction and alcoholism. There is a popular brand name injectable form of naltrexone called Vivitrol, where people get monthly injections to help with cravings. There are also a long-acting implantable naltrexone options available.
Alcohol Use Disorder Medications
In addition to naltrexone, there are other medications often prescribed to treat alcohol use disorders. One popular one is disulfiram, typically under the brand name Antabuse. This medication comes in the form of a daily pill or a monthly injection as well. Disulfiram causes people to feel very unpleasant or sick if they drink any alcohol, which then acts as a deterrent for any consumption. Finally, there is acamprosate, also known as Campral. This medication is used to help reduce cravings for alcohol.
Used in Conjunction with Therapy
In most cases, medications alone will not solve the problem. There usually still needs to be some therapeutic practices involved through counseling, guidance, structured programs, support groups and more. There is also the issue of side effects, as all medications are subject to their being some potential problems. However, when used in appropriate settings, MAT is often a life saver.
Consult an appropriately-licensed medical professional for more information about these and other medications that may be available to help you on your path to long term recovery.