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What is Medication-Assisted Therapy?

It’s no secret that recovery from drug and alcohol addiction can take a toll—both mentally and physically. After all, addiction is a medical condition. During detox, when a person stops taking substances, they could have withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) can alleviate these symptoms and prevent relapses during early addiction treatment. Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, is here for clients in need of recovery solutions that work best for them. MAT is one of the many avenues available to quit drugs and alcohol for good.

What Is It?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) describes medication-assisted therapy (also called “medication-assisted treatment”) as, “The use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a ‘whole-patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.” 

Furthermore, SAMSHA states that medical professionals prescribe FDA-approved medications for MAT.

Methods, Goals, and Procedures for MAT

The methods, goals, and procedures for MAT can vary from client to client. However, most clients can expect similar experiences and outcomes from MAT.

The primary method of MAT involves combining behavioral health treatment with medications. That way, clients get help for both the physical and mental health symptoms of withdrawal. 

The goals of MAT include the following:

  • Reduce cravings and urges to use drugs or drink alcohol
  • Prevent relapse during early recovery
  • Minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms during detox
  • Lower the risk of overdose in the event of a relapse
  • Provide comfort throughout the withdrawal process
  • Helps clients engage in treatment by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms

Procedures for MAT depend upon the severity of the client’s addiction and the substance. In addition, procedures also depend on how advanced a person is in their recovery and the type of MAT medication.

This can look like attending a group therapy session when a client receives their daily dosage at a methadone clinic, for example. However, clients in an inpatient facility will have comprehensive individual and group therapies along with MAT.

In addition, some clients take their medications at home and attend outpatient treatment programs. Still, others receive monthly injections at their doctor’s office.

The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Therapy

MAT offers several benefits, including the following:

  • Affordable and usually covered by healthcare insurance
  • Is an evidence-based treatment for opioid and alcohol use disorders
  • Decreases the risk of relapse and overdose
  • Offers a safe way for pregnant and breastfeeding clients to quit opioids
  • Increases client retention and engagement in treatment programs
  • Reduces criminal activity for those abusing illicit drugs
  • Helps clients maintain employment during their recovery

Medication-assisted therapy also benefits clients by including behavioral therapy as part of the recovery process. Behavioral therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), helps clients cope with the underlying causes of their addiction.

Thus, by combining both medications for symptoms of addiction and therapy for underlying causes, clients in MAT programs often meet or exceed their treatment outcomes.

What Is Medication-Assisted Therapy Best Used for?

MAT is best used for opioid and alcohol use disorders. Currently, the FDA only approves MAT medications for these addictions. However, medications for other drugs, like cocaine, could be developed in the future.

Withdrawal from opioids and alcohol can be extremely distressing and even deadly. For this reason, the FDA has approved certain medications for MAT.

What Medications Does MAT Incorporate?

Medication-assisted therapy incorporates different medications depending on the substance, severity of addiction, and what works best for the client. However, some medications, like naltrexone, help with both alcohol and opioid use disorders.

Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

The following medications are FDA-approved for treating an alcohol use disorder:

  • Disulfiram causes an adverse reaction that leads to vomiting when a person drinks alcohol. 
  • Acamprosate helps clients after they complete a detox program by repairing brain functioning after long-term alcohol misuse.
  • Naltrexone blocks the reward centers in the brain that activate when a person drinks alcohol.

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Medications for opioid use disorder work by either activating or blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. The following are FDA-approved medications to treat opioid addiction:

  • Methadone acts on the opioid receptors to reduce cravings and withdrawal. It also blunts the effects of other opioids, if the person relapses. Furthermore, methadone is the only MAT medication approved for use by pregnant clients.
  • Buprenorphine produces a similar, but weaker, effect as other opioids, like heroin or fentanyl. Thus, buprenorphine blocks other opioids, while also reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids. In other words, if a client relapses while taking naltrexone, they won’t feel the desired effects of the opioid drug.
  • Naloxone (Narcan) reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and revives people in the event of an overdose.

Medications for Stimulant Drugs

At this time, the FDA has not approved any medications specifically for treating addictions to stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine.

However, some clients benefit from psychotropic medications during detox and early recovery. These medications can include anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication as well as sleep aids.

Risks and Side Effects of MAT

While medication-assisted therapy is evidence-based, there are some risks and side effects for clients to understand. These can include the following:

  • The medications can have unpleasant side effects, like vomiting, headache, anxiety, and others. 
  • Medications like methadone can be addictive and have a potential for misuse. This is why methadone doses are usually not taken home and administered only under the supervision of medical professionals.
  • Clients could be dependent on these medications. Therefore, they will need to gradually taper off MAT medications. They might also need to take them long-term for months or years.

However, the benefits of MAT generally outweigh the risks and side effects. There are also many options for medications during MAT. Therefore, clients have options to change medications if one isn’t working or is no longer effective.

Start Medication-Assisted Therapy in Los Angeles, CA

Medication-assisted therapy, often referred to as “medication-assisted treatment,” is a scientifically-supported method designed to address opioid and alcohol use disorders. For individuals who have tried numerous times, without success, to refrain from using or drinking, this approach provides a beacon of hope, particularly for those grappling with severe addictions. When integrated with psychotherapy and holistic methods, MAT becomes a crucial component of a multifaceted treatment plan, paving the way for a successful recovery.

Harmony Place, with its commitment to personalized care, acknowledges that financial accessibility is a key factor in seeking help. To ensure that our services are within reach, we accept health insurance from a range of providers. This includes Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana among others. Our goal is to alleviate the financial stress associated with treatment, allowing you to focus your energy on your healing journey.

Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, offers MAT for clients in need of detox and long-term recovery. Contact us today to get started.