The opioid epidemic is a problem for many individuals, families and communities. However, there are viable treatment options for this behavioral health condition. This option is commonly known as MAT or medication-assisted treatment.
What is MAT?
Similar to how there are successful medication treatment options for ADHD or depression, there are treatment options for substance abuse disorders (addiction). According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration), MAT is utilized for the treatment of addiction. The most common type of addictive substances are heroin, alcohol and prescription pain relievers.
Many MAT programs understand that many substance use disorders (SUD) will also have other mental health conditions such as anxiety or PTSD. Due to this complexity, MAT programs are often designed to include specific medications as well as therapeutic interventions. However, combining medications without the guidance of a trained healthcare professional is dangerous and potentially fatal.
In order to combat addiction, MAT programs use medications that are prescribed to target the brain. They work to normalize brain chemistry and disrupt the effects of alcohol and opioids. Due to this blocking effect, the physiological desire for the substance is reduced which makes it easier for an individual to return to normal.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medications that are used in MAT programs. FDA approval means that these programs are supported by years of clinical research.
Potential Problems with MAT:
Even though MAT programs have a proven, clinical record of success, problems can arise. One concern is that there is a black market for the prescription drugs that are used in many MAT programs. Also, at higher dosages and by using different administration methods, these medications can become addictive. But this is a rare occurrence.
In reality, when individuals are treated for substance abuse disorders, the prescribed medicine that they are administered does not get them high. The medication is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help a person heal.
People in a MAT program may struggle and feel intensely guilty for developing an addiction. For them, suffering from an addiction is a moral failing. Some people before seeking help may have tried to self-administer certain substances in order to feel normal. For these individuals, their addiction may be combined with behavioral health ailments like depression and anxiety.
In this case, the occurrence of depression and addiction could make recovery even more difficult. Individuals with depression may actually self-medicate and abuse substances as a way to feel normal yet. This behavior will likely make their condition worse over time. People who are experiencing such a condition should seek help from a mental health professional.
These feelings of guilt and shame may get in the way of seeking and maintaining a successful MAT program. For these situations, people need to update their understanding of SUD. Once they understand that addiction operates more like a disease, the stigma is lifted.
In the end, MAT is a very effective treatment option for individuals struggling with substance abuse. Treatment programs have existed for many decades both nationally and internationally. There is abundant research to support the effectiveness and continued used of MAT to combat addiction. Studies also show that individuals who complete programs that blend medication and psychiatric therapy are more successful at completing the program.
The Goals of MAT:
The final goal of a good MAT Program is for people to recover. In order to accomplish this task, it is helpful to frame the occurrence of substance abuse as a disease and not a character flaw. It is a disease, and like any illness; the long-term goal is to get better.
People want to recovery and live a productive and meaningful life that is free from substance abuse. The positive benefits of MAT programs are:
- Improved patient survival rate.
- Increased retention in the MAT program.
- A decrease in opiate use.
- Greater patient success in gaining and maintaining employment.
- Improve birth outcomes among women who are pregnant.
Contributor: ABCS RCM