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The US opioid epidemic has increased the demand for an effective solution for treating and preventing substance abuse. MAT or Medication Assisted Treatment has emerged as a primary form of treatment for opioid use disorders. While many treatment providers see it as an effective solution, it has often been met with criticism from others.

An increasing number of treatment facilities nationwide are utilizing MAT to help addicts better tolerate the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. But does Medication Assisted Treatment work? While MAT programs have been getting increased attention, there are several misconceptions regarding the treatment. The following will help elucidate what MAT is and how it is used as a form of substance abuse treatment.

A Brief Review of Medication Assisted Treatment Programs

In simple terms, medication assisted therapy programs use specific medications to help addicts withdraw from substances safely and in a comfortable setting.

In combination with counselling and other therapeutic interventions, MAT helps increase the chances of long-term recovery. Most commonly used with people suffering from heroin and prescription painkiller addiction, these programs can also be of great help to those struggling with alcohol addiction.

The most common medications used in these programs are methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol. For those who are in treatment for alcohol abuse, medications such as Antabuse and Campral. These medications are administered and monitored by experienced treatment staff. Additionally, staff will gradually taper these medications as patients progress through the treatment process.

The Application of MAT Programs in Substance Abuse Treatment

As alluded to in the previous section, medication therapy is utilized during the medical detoxification phase of treatment. During detox, the patient can experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms depending on the drug that is abused. The main goal of utilizing medications in treatment is to help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal.

However, using medications isn’t the only intervention that is used during this critical phase of early recovery. Newly recovering addicts will also undergo nutritional therapy and other supplementary interventions to achieve physical and psychological stability. During detox, experienced treatment staff will also perform a comprehensive evaluation to find any underlying issues that may impede an addict’s progress. If needed, medications can be continued as directed under the close supervision of treatment staff.

Are There Requirements for MAT Programs?

With the increase in MAT programs, there is increased scrutiny. For some, medication therapy is merely replacing one drug with another.

For others, they may question if and any regulations that govern the use of medications during the treatment programs. For those who are critical or just curious, MAT programs have strict guidelines that must be followed.

First and foremost, treatment facilities that provide MAT must be accredited and certified by an accredited body approved by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The accreditation standards and certification processes that govern facilities that provide MAT are handled by the Division of Pharmacologic Therapies (DPT).

Federal law requires patients who receive treatment in a drug treatment facility to receive medical, counseling, vocational, educational, and other services if they receive medication therapy. Additionally, federal law allows MAT professionals to provide treatment and services in a range of settings. These can include hospitals, correctional facilities, remote clinics, and other similar settings. When undergoing medication therapy, patients must receive behavioral therapy and other forms of counseling. These services are required, along with medical, vocational, educational, and other crucial treatment services.

Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work? Is MAT a Cure for addiction?

Medication assisted therapy is not a stand-alone cure for drug and/or alcohol addiction. While medications may offer a newly recovering addict an increased chance of recovery, they are not designed to be a long term or stand-alone solution. The use of medication to assist treatment is one tool that can be used in what should be a comprehensive treatment program that helps the addict uncover and address the underlying roots of his or her addiction.

These tools include individual and group therapy, life and coping skills, and other traditional and holistic therapy options. Unless the roots of addiction are addressed, any sobriety that is achieved will be short-lived. When relapse occurs, it can start a vicious cycle where an addict’s substance abuse intensifies. When that happens, the physical and psychological damage that results may be too much to overcome.

Want to Know More About MAT?

While medication assisted therapy is becoming more popular, there seem to be more questions than answers to its role in the recovery process. In your search for a treatment for yourself or a loved one, you may have questions if MAT would be of benefit to long-term recovery. If you or a loved one are unclear about how to choose a course of treatment that is right for you, don’t hesitate to call the treatment professionals at Nuview Treatment Center.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside


Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson


Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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