5 Reasons Why Medication-Assisted Treatment is Worth Considering
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-Assisted Treatment (or MAT) uses FDA approved medications along with evidence-based behavioral therapies to treat substance abuse and addiction.
MAT seems to have this stigma that follows it...
You see, the nature of addiction itself involves habitually consuming substances without the ability to stop. So for most people, it seems counterintuitive to use another substance to help stop using drugs. But is it really that simple? Should medication-assisted treatment be dismissed without a further thought? No, unfortunately, it’s not that simple and definitely worth consideration. In many cases, Medication-Assisted Treatment can literally tip the odds in the favor of life.
1. MAT Can Save Lives
Multiple studies and examples from around the world have shown that when utilizing MAT to treat opiate abuse, Medication-Assisted Treatment can be incredibly effective. This article by nih.org references a study that documented the use of Medication-Assisted Treatment used to treat opioid abuse. The study followed individuals in Massachusetts who survived an opiate overdose between 2012 and 2014. They compared patients who received MAT after overdose, with patients who did not. The difference was astonishing. The patients being treated with buprenorphine(a common medicine used during MAT), had a 38% lower mortality rate. That’s huge!
Another example was in France. After going through a terrible opioid epidemic in the ’80s, France made a decision to change regulations. In 1995 a decision was made to allow physicians to prescribe buprenorphine without specific training or certifications. Four years later the nation experienced more than a 75% reduction in opioid overdoses. That is a dramatic change for an epidemic that the US is fighting to combat every day. If for no other reason, these examples make MAT, at least in my opinion, worth a second look when considering treatment options.
2. Working With a Medical Doctor Who is Highly Experienced With Addiction Treatment
If you’ve ever discussed addiction for yourself or someone else with your family doctor you may have experienced a phenomenon that is quite prevalent in the United States. Many medical doctors lack experience in successfully treating addicts and alcoholics. On the other hand, being able to work with a medical doctor that has experience in addiction treatment can be huge. They understand from first-hand experience the patterns of thinking and behavior exhibited by addiction. They understand the importance of therapy along with medication for a well-rounded approach to treatment, and they usually understand the importance of 12-step programs. Alongside all this, they obviously have a medical background as well. This means you have a medical professional looking at a more complete picture of your overall health while treating addiction at the same time.
Unfortunately, stigma and current legislation make these doctors more uncommon than other practitioners. The good news is more and more physicians are becoming certified every year and working with more addiction clients. Keep in mind though, if you decide Medication-Assisted Treatment is for you, make sure that the doctor you decide to work with has experience with addiction treatment and not just a recent certification.
3. A Solid Option For Relapse Prone Individuals
Sad but true, chronic relapse is not uncommon in addicted individuals. The insidious nature of addiction causes the brain to work against logic and reasoning in order to return to drugs or alcohol. The brain starts to view these substances, on even an unconscious level, as essential for survival; just like food, water, or breathing. This means that long-term abstinence and recovery is no easy feat. That’s why anything we can do to improve recovery rates should be considered.
Many addicted individuals try many methods of recovery, only to find themselves back in the same place they started. Actually, let’s correct that. Because addiction is a chronic, progressive and potentially fatal disease, individuals usually find themselves off in a worse place after they relapse each time. This leaves them and their loved ones feeling frustrated, resentful, and worst of all - hopeless. Medication-Assisted treatments like buprenorphine, for example, work by reducing cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. When combined with behavioral therapies and maybe involvement in a 12-step program, MAT might provide a workable solution for someone that previously didn’t have one. For someone that has had many unsuccessful attempts at recovery, MAT can be a life-saving lifeline.
4. Harm Reduction for Individuals More Prone to Overdose
For individuals who are more prone to overdose, like those using heroin and other opioids, MAT can be an excellent tool for harm reduction. While all addictive substances can cause bodily harm, these substances are notorious for higher overdose and mortality rates. With the opioid epidemic reaching higher and higher levels of devastation every day, having a solid tool to fight back with is a necessity. For a while now drug dealers have been known to cut their drugs with substances like fentanyl, meaning opioid addicts are at an ever increasing risk of fatal overdose.
The opioid epidemic is truly a crisis and should not be discussed lightly. The CDC reports that heroin-related deaths alone increased five-fold between 2010 and 2016. Medication-Assisted Treatment if nothing else could potentially prevent many of these deaths.
5. A Chance at Life You May Not Have Had
In many cases, Medication-Assisted Treatment opens the door to be able to live a clean, sober, and rewarding life. Unfortunately, the recovery rate can be incredibly low for individuals seeking addiction treatment. This is due to a whole variety of reasons ranging from the nature of addiction itself to society’s lack of understanding, all the way to the rampant unethical behavior largely surrounding the addiction treatment industry as a whole. It is important to do whatever we can to increase the chances of someone getting and staying clean and sober.
Being able to see and feel how good life without drugs and alcohol can be is crucial for people in recovery. By decreasing withdrawal symptoms and much of the psychological pull to go back to addiction, it is more likely the patient will stay in recovery longer. This extra time allows the individual the opportunity to receive more behavioral therapy, gain support from 12-Step groups, give the brain and body more time to heal, etc. Ultimately this leads to a chance at a positive, clean & sober life that may not have been possible.
So to wrap it all up...
As with many things in life, MAT isn’t for everyone. Every individual case has to be evaluated by a medical doctor who will ultimately make the decision of whether or not MAT is an appropriate and safe option for you. There are plenty of studies and real-world examples that indicate the positive outcomes that utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment can create. Medication-Assisted treatment benefits include lower mortality rates, working with experienced medical professionals, providing a solution for chronic relapse, harm reduction for high-risk individuals and giving addicts and alcoholics a better chance at life. With more education and exposure, as well as increased ethical awareness, hopefully, Medication-Assisted Treatment can start being used more to help people.
Coastal Addiction Center is MAT supportive and utilizes the latest advances in therapy and medicine to provide the best possible chances for recovery. Founder, Dr. David Asher has worked with those fighting addiction for over a decade. He’s seen first-hand the devastation it causes society and takes every opportunity to help those in need. You can read his BIO here. If you or your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, please reach out to us for help. By providing education on addiction along with safe and effective treatment solutions, we take great pride in contributing the fight against addiction.
Coastal Addiction Center
527 S Archer St
Anaheim, CA 92804