The United States has been grappling with a severe public health crisis related to opioids for several years. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 200 individuals die daily from opioid overdose. Opioid addiction is a complex illness requiring comprehensive treatment approaches, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
MAT is a treatment strategy that blends medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a holistic approach to managing opioid addiction. This article will delve into the benefits of medication-assisted treatment programs and how they can aid people struggling with opioid addiction.
The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs
Individuals with opioid addiction can benefit in several ways from medication-assisted treatment programs, including:
- Lower risk of overdose and death: MAT medications like buprenorphine and methadone effectively decrease the risk of overdose and death. By reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, these medications facilitate abstinence from opioids.
- Better treatment retention: Studies have demonstrated that MAT programs improve treatment retention rates. Individuals receiving medication-assisted treatment are more likely to continue and finish their treatment program.
- Decreased criminal activity: MAT programs have been associated with reduced criminal activity. By mitigating cravings and withdrawal symptoms, individuals can avoid illegal activity to obtain opioids.
- Enhanced physical and mental health outcomes: MAT programs can also improve individuals’ overall physical and mental health. Stable employment, improved family relationships, and better health outcomes are more likely to be achieved by individuals who receive MAT.
- Improved daily functioning: By decreasing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, medication-assisted treatment programs can help individuals regain their ability to function in daily life. This includes participating in work, school, and other activities.
Types of Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs
To help individuals combat opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment programs employ a range of medications. The following are some of the most commonly used medications in MAT:
Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid agonist that helps to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is administered once daily orally.
Buprenorphine: This is a partial opioid agonist that helps to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can be administered sublingually (under the tongue) or through injection.
Naltrexone: This is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids. It can be administered orally or through injection.
Common Misconceptions About Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs
Despite the proven effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment programs, there are still several common misconceptions surrounding these programs that need to be addressed, such as:
Stigma against using medications to treat addiction: There remains a stigma attached to using medications to treat addiction, with some individuals believing that utilizing medication is “cheating” and that individuals should be able to overcome addiction without it.
Perception that medication-assisted treatment is “just replacing one addiction with another”: Some individuals believe that medication-assisted treatment is just substituting one addiction for another. However, the medications utilized in MAT are highly regulated and much less likely to lead to addiction compared to illegal opioids.
Limited understanding of how medication-assisted treatment functions: There is still a limited understanding of how medication-assisted treatment works, with some people assuming that MAT replaces one drug with another without comprehending the scientific principles behind these medications.
Potential Side Effects and Risks Associated with Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs
Like any medication, the medications used in medication-assisted treatment programs have potential side effects and risks that need to be considered. However, these risks are generally outweighed by the benefits of the treatment.
For instance, methadone can lead to side effects such as constipation, nausea, and dizziness. Overdosing on methadone is also possible if not taken as prescribed. Similarly, buprenorphine can cause comparable side effects in addition to headaches and insomnia, while naltrexone can cause nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
Apart from the possible side effects, there is also a risk of misuse or diversion of the medications utilized in medication-assisted treatment programs. Therefore, it’s crucial for healthcare providers to closely monitor patients and ensure they take the medication as directed.
It is worth noting that it is crucial for individuals to weigh the potential risks against the benefits and discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs: A Highly Effective Option for Opioid Addiction Recovery
Medication-assisted treatment program (MAT) is a highly effective option for those struggling with opioid addiction. Combining medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies, MAT provides a whole-patient approach to treating addiction, and reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
However, it’s important to note that MAT is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and treatment plans should be tailored to individual needs and goals. For best results, MAT should be combined with counseling and behavioral therapies. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, seeking help from a healthcare provider trained in addiction medicine, like Confidant Health, can provide practical options for recovery. Confidant Health is an app that offers expert and professional help to those who need it.
Despite misconceptions surrounding MAT, it offers many benefits. With the right support and treatment, individuals can achieve and maintain long-term recovery from opioid addiction.