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Medication-Assisted opioid addiction treatment.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an opioid addiction treatment approach that combines behavioral counseling with stabilizing medication. It is not a prescription for medication alone. Instead, the focus is on counseling through individualized custom patient care under the guidance of a medical doctor who addresses the cravings and withdrawal symptoms of the patient.
The most effective treatment program is one that combines medication with a range of other services such as medical, behavioral and social counseling in order to provide long-lasting, positive results for the patient.
Options for MAT include medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or Suboxone®. Each of these medications have different properties and should be discussed with the doctor to determine which is the best option for the individual.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is one of the longest studied and most regulated medications with over 50 years of research in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent persons. Today, MMT is recognized as a key component of a comprehensive opioid addiction treatment program and has solid evidence of overall effectiveness for individuals across a variety of different environments.
Medication-Assisted Treatment is a low cost option when compared to the high cost of continued illegal drug use, inpatient or residential treatment, or the high relapse rates associated with programs that do not work for the individual.
One of the strong advantages of Medication-Assisted Treatment is that the individual learns to recover and heal without the requirement to leave work, family or social obligations. The added benefit of participating in treatment while continuing regular life activities is that the patient learns to work within their current environment, addressing changes that need to occur within their present circumstances. By contrast, patients that are removed from their environment for treatment must still learn how to cope and properly respond to stimuli associated with past behavior.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is one of the most researched treatment approaches to ensure its safety and efficacy for all types of individuals. The most common medications used in MAT include methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone®.
MAT may be the right choice for you if:
- You are an adult 18 years or older who has been dependent on painkillers or heroin for more than a year
- Your opioid use has resulted in social consequences, affecting your work, family and social obligations
- Previous attempts at quitting have been unsuccessful
- You are combining one or more substances, putting your health at further risk
- You have engaged in criminal activity to continue using
- You use opiates intravenously which puts you at high risk for AIDS, HIV, STDs and Hepatitis C
No. Methadone and buprenorphine are FDA-approved, highly studied and regulated medications used to help individuals recover from opioid addiction. Methadone and buprenorphine acts as stabilizers in the body rather than a narcotic that is used for its euphoric effects. When taken as prescribed, methadone and buprenorphine help patients function physically, emotionally and intellectually without impairment. The medications do not produce mood swings, drowsiness or narcotic effects. Patients on medication-assisted maintenance can drive, go to work, return to their families and lead normal lives. Methadone maintenance is not an addiction. It is a physical dependence that is required to maintain physical stability. By contrast, painkillers and heroin, destabilize the individual and lead them to many high-risk behaviors that have severe consequences.
Methadone does not impair the child’s developmental or cognitive functioning when taken during pregnancy. Years of studies have shown that there is no lasting harm to the child from exposure to methadone during pregnancy and has been proven to reduce the risk of illness or death in both the mother and child.
Overall, studies over decades across millions of patients show that patients improve physical health compared to their health status prior to taking methadone. If a patient had prior medical conditions, poor nutrition or poor dental care, patients may become aware of these symptoms as their body stabilizes on methadone. Patients can then properly address pre-existing conditions and improve healthcare, nutrition and healthy wellness habits.
Studies indicate that the greater the length in treatment, the more positive the results for the patient. Generally, less than 90 days in treatment is of limited effectiveness. A minimum amount of time in treatment is 12 months with increasing positive results typically occurring at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year milestones. However, the exact duration of treatment is determined by the individual in conversation with the physician so there is no predetermined length of treatment.
Addiction and physical dependence are two different characteristics. Addiction is compulsive use of a drug despite negative consequences. Methadone maintenance is not an addiction, it is a physical dependence that is required to maintain physical stability. Similar to a diabetic patient that is dependent on insulin, methadone does not produce the addictive behaviors of compulsion where cravings and withdrawal symptoms lead to constant drug use.
No. Methadone, when used as prescribed, does not impair in any way the patient’s ability to drive or operate machinery. Research studies indicate that patients on methadone had normal functioning including the ability to pay close attention, reaction time, eye-hand coordination, and accurate responses in emergency situations.