5 Things About Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs That Will Shock You

medication-assisted treatment

Medication-assisted treatment or MAT is a treatment program for substance abuse that uses medications as a recovery plan. Most people assume that the number one goal of treating substance abuse and addiction is keeping substances away from the patient. While that is partially true, it is not always the case.

What is medication-assisted treatment used for?

The use of prescribed medication alongside counseling and behavioral therapies can lead to more effective results. More importantly, it can improve chances of treatment continuity. Medical professionals are usually concerned about this because many patients tend to discontinue treatment when they feel no improvement. But with MAT, doctors have seen patient retention and recovery.

What Are Some Types Of Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are different types of medication-assisted treatment. Each treatment is unique, but all MAT programs include counseling and psychotherapy. The primary difference is in the type of medications used to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce intoxication, and improve the patient’s mood. 

Common MAT programs available today include:

  • Alcohol abuse treatment
  • Opioid dependence treatment
  • Opioid overdose treatment

Each MAT program uses unique medications that can help counteract psychological cravings and reduce the impact of these substances on the patient’s body. 

Since MAT involves the use of medication, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the program. To help separate fact from fiction, here are five truths about MAT programs that most people don’t know.

1. The Treatment Will Not Make You High

Some falsely claim that the medications given to MAT patients are the same substances the patients are addicted to in the first place. Not true. In fact, the medications used in MAT programs are FDA-approved. When you undergo MAT, medical professionals will handle the treatment, so all doses of medications used are within normal levels. Here are the common drugs used in MAT:


Alcohol addiction patients take acamprosate. This drug prevents patients from drinking alcohol. However, acamprosate can work only on patients who have been sober for a long time. You can only take this drug on the fifth day of abstinence. The full effectiveness of this drug will be achieved within five to eight days after the first dose. Common side effects include diarrhea, dizziness, and appetite loss.


Disulfiram is a drug given to patients with chronic alcoholism. This drug discourages people from drinking alcohol because of its effects. If you’re taking disulfiram, drinking even small amounts of alcohol will cause redness of the face, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, breathing difficulty, and sweating. Disulfiram is not a cure for alcoholism, but it’s a drug that gives unpleasant effects to patients who continue drinking alcohol.

what is medication-assisted treatment
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Naltrexone blocks the “euphoric effects” of intoxication on people. This drug blocks the receptors where opioids attach. When receptors are blocked, it reduces the drug’s effect and disables it from influencing your nervous system.


Buprenorphine is a drug used together with naltrexone to manage opioid dependence. This medication is classified as a “partial agonist-antagonists.” A partial agonist drug activates the opiate receptors of the brain, while a partial antagonist does the opposite. The buprenorphine-naltrexone combination yields a stronger antagonist effect.


Just like naltrexone, methadone is a drug that blocks the psychological effects of codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and heroin. Methadone also belongs to the opiate family. This drug is primarily a pain management drug. However, doctors use methadone to opiate drug addicts to ease withdrawal symptoms. Doctors give a strict dosage schedule. Over time, the dosage decreases as the patients start to develop resilience.


Unlike naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone, naloxone is a first-aid drug for opioid overdose. Naloxone is given only to overdose patients, and it’s not a maintenance drug. Naloxone works by attaching itself rapidly to opioid receptors to reverse and block its effects. Giving naloxone can be in the form of nasal sprays or injections. These two delivery systems are the only FDA-approved forms.

2. It Is Not Trading One Addiction for Another

As discussed thoroughly above, drugs used in medication-assisted treatment are not addictive. These medications only aim to prevent and block the effects of the drug on the body. 

The common characteristics of MAT medications are the following:

  • Blocking euphoric effects
  • Suppressing cravings
  • Normalizing the brain chemistry
  • Relieving withdrawal symptoms

3. MAT Can Cause Overdose

Any drug can cause an overdose. So what are medication-assistant treatments capable of doing? If taken within recommended and prescribed dosage, it will not cause any adverse reaction except for common side effects. 

The drug with the highest risk of overdose is methadone. That’s why doctors are strict in giving prescriptions and dosages to patients. Since methadone is a drug that helps opiate addicts bridge from addiction to recovery, improper use of methadone can lead to addiction.

4. MAT Will Lead You to True Recovery

benefits of medication-assisted treatment
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According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the use of MAT programs has shown clinical effectiveness and has reduced the need for detoxification services. Since MAT is a combination of medication and therapy, it is more comprehensive and personalized. It means that every patient will have different treatment programs.

The SAMHSA also found that MAT reduces the risk of co-occurring disorders like HIV or Hepatitis C. Proper therapy augmented by medication can help patients recover from addiction and live a self-directed life.

5. MAT Is Evidence-based

One of the benefits of medication-assisted treatment is that it reduces the strain of recovery to patients. With the help of drugs that counter or block withdrawal symptoms, many doctors have found evidence of its effectiveness, especially with buprenorphine and methadone. According to the SAMHSA, the use of MAT is not a substitute for drugs but an evidence-based treatment program.

Find The Treatment You Need With Roots Through Recovery

Disinformation surrounds medication-assisted treatment programs since it involves using medications as part of the treatment. However, evidence and federal approval has shown that MAT has helped patients recover and continue recovery by participating in therapies. Continuity of treatment is a problem that most medical professionals encounter, but MAT has encouraged patients to seek help throughout their recovery journey.

Roots Through Recovery can help you get started with your journey. We offer addiction recovery and trauma-focused treatment to patients who want to get better. Addiction and alcoholism are not life sentences. You can recover with the help of our mental health professionals at Roots Through Recovery.

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Your journey to sobriety and wellness starts with a simple call. Contact us at 562-304-9592 to speak with our experts or utilize the live chat on our website.

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