A man holds his hand out and shows a pill in his palm as he uses medication-assisted treatment to overcome addiction.

Substance dependence is often one of the key barriers that stand in the way of an individual succeeding in addiction treatment. With the help of medication-assisted treatment, an individual can reduce risk behaviors and take the next steps towards a sustainable recovery.

Addiction Treatment Options

Addiction is defined as a mental disorder that manifests as substance abuse, most specifically drug and alcohol dependence. A full addiction treatment plan usually involves a combination of substance detoxification, behavioral therapies, and peer support groups. 

However, just as addiction looks different for each person, every addict will have their own process and steps they must take to sustain recovery. It is up to the person struggling with substance abuse to choosing complete abstinence. With new research, medication-assisted treatment options might be able to help.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the process of using FDA-approved medications as one piece of alcohol rehab or drug rehab treatment plans. Research shows that combining medication and behavioral therapy allows a person struggling with substance use disorder to fully commit to the recovery process without needing inpatient detoxification. This allows an individual to participate in their daily routine while still participating in treatment programs.

The prescribed medication works to achieve the following:

  • Normalize brain chemistry – Oftentimes, mental health issues like anxiety and depression are caused by chemical imbalances in our brains. With the help of medication, a person can focus less on their stress and more on their treatment.
  • Block euphoric effects and relieve physiological cravings – People will repeatedly turn to substance abuse for the good feelings associated with their substance of choice. The medication-assisted treatment removes the rush, which can help individuals address their deeper dependence and the negative emotions they may have been avoiding through substance use.
  • Normalize body functions – One of the hardest parts of substance abuse treatment is the experience of withdrawal symptoms. The Drug Enforcement Administration has approved medication-assisted treatment to help people struggling with addiction overcome this hurdle toward recovery.

The two main substance use disorders that are most readily treated by medication-assisted treatment are opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

Treating Opioid Use Disorders (OUD)

Research shows almost 100 people die every 24 hours from an opioid overdose. With the help of medication-assisted treatment, there is hope this can be avoided in the battle against the opioid epidemic. Currently, three medications are approved for the treatment of opioid dependence:

  • Methadone treatment is one of the oldest prescribed medications used in opioid treatment programs, as it’s been used as part of addiction recovery since the 1960s. An individual cannot take methadone without direct medical supervision, and it must be administered by a facility approved by the Mental Health Services Administration. Because it is one of the most highly sought-after drugs to treat OUD, many individuals end up on a waitlist for this medication.
  • Many doctors prefer to prescribe buprenorphine as a treatment option. Buprenorphine doesn’t come with methadone maintenance, as it can be prescribed by a variety of healthcare providers and can be administered as a patch, pill, or long-acting injection.
  • Naltrexone is unique in its function as an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks the physiological cravings of opioids. It is the most easily accessible of the three medications, but it cannot be administered until a person has first completed medical detoxification. Naltrexone can also be used to treat alcohol use disorder.

At Harmony Outpatient, we aim to walk beside you as we treat substance use disorders. We are here to care for the whole patient on your journey toward recovery. If you have questions about how medication-assisted treatment could benefit you or a loved one, contact us anytime. We are here to support you and your family on the journey to recovery.