What Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication assisted treatment is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a "whole-patient" approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders. For some people struggling with addiction, medication assisted treatment can help sustain recovery.

Typically, when someone starts using a drug or alcohol, it feels good so they take it more often. As time goes on, people typically need more of the substance to have the same feeling. This is called “tolerance.” After using substances for a long period of time and in large quantities, people will need the substance to feel “normal” and will go into withdrawal if they don’t have access to their substance of choice.

This is because their body has adapted to having the substance present at all times and has adjusted the chemicals it produces to compensate for the substances. When someone stops taking the substance, the body does not go back to working the way it did before it became used to the substance right away which leads people to go through withdrawal.

This phenomenon is called “dependency.” The medications used in medication assisted treatment are similar chemicals to the opioids and other substances people use. Essentially, they are similar enough to the drugs or alcohol that people have used so that their bodies won’t go into withdrawal, but they are not so similar that they produce the high of the drugs. This can help people who have become dependent on substances to stop using drugs or alcohol safely. 

Medication assisted treatment is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.

Medications used in medication assisted treatment are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and medication assisted treatment programs are clinically driven and tailored to meet each patient's needs. New Century Behavioral Health Services utilizes buprenorphine, naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram medications to assist patients in long term recovery.

Is MAT Safe?

The FDA has approved the medications used in medication assisted treatment therapies. As with any medications, it is important to take them as directed and to be honest with the person prescribing the medications. Other medications, physical health conditions, mental health conditions, and lifestyle factors may impact the way you react to the medications so make sure to be open and honest with your provider.

How Does MAT Help?

Changing any behavior is hard. Think about how many people start each new year with a plan to lose weight by joining a gym but lose motivation by March. When someone is using substances, there are many factors that go into the pattern of behavior that has often lasted years. Two major factors are the “high” or good feeling that comes from using the substance and avoiding the negative feeling of withdrawal.

The medications in medication assisted therapy can address these two factors by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and by blocking the “high” even if someone takes a drug while using the medication. By taking away these factors, medication assisted therapy gives the clients and the counselors the opportunity to focus on the other things that have contributed to the client’s addiction.

What Does the Treatment Look Like?

There are different medications which come in different forms. Some are in dissolvable strips or liquids which you will need to pick up frequently. Others are available in injectables you would only need once a month. Talk to our providers to find out which option is right for you!