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The goal of MAT is to help patients achieve full recovery as well as reduce opioid overdose, decrease the illicit use of prescription pain relievers and illicit drugs, and increase patient survival.

Navigation: What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?, Who Needs Medication-Assisted Treatment?, Medications Used in MAT, Medication-Assistred Treatment For Opioid Addiction,, Methadone, Buprenorphine, Naltrexone, Medications used in MAT for alcoholism include Acamprosate, Disulfiram, and naltrexone, Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment, Drug & Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms, MAT for withdrawal symptoms, MAT Can Reduce The Risk of Overdose, Potential Reduction Of Release Rates, Other Treatments Used in Addiction Treatment, Group Therapy, Alternative Treatments, Dual Diagnosis Treatment, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Medication-Assisted Treatment For Treating Addiction 

Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a complex and chronic disease characterized by the compulsive and uncontrollable use of drugs despite the harmful consequences.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines it as a condition that is characterized by a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological symptoms. It goes without saying that having this condition can have a profound impact on a person’s physical health, mental well-being, and even their relationships.

Their physical health may suffer as they develop tolerance and drug dependence. With continued drug use, the body may require higher doses to achieve the same effects. This puts the person at risk of drug overdose, which can be fatal.

If they develop drug dependence, they will experience harmful withdrawal symptoms whenever they try to reduce or cease their drug intake. Prolonged drug abuse can also lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, and liver damage.

Their impairment can also increase their risk of getting into an accident or suffering from serious injuries.

On top of all these physical effects, addicted individuals also suffer from mental and emotional effects like mood changes, impaired judgment, cognitive impairment, and mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Addiction not only affects the individual but also the people around them, including their friends and family members. Their behavioral changes may lead to social isolation, strained relationships, and legal or financial problems.

With all the dangers of addiction, it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from substance abuse. That said, it’s important to note that addiction is a treatable condition.

Treatment approaches may include detoxification, behavioral counseling, ongoing support, and what is known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). That’s what we’re going to discuss here today.

The use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies has been proven to be one of the most effective treatment methods for those struggling with substance use disorder, alcoholism, opioid dependence, etc.

Medication-assisted treatment is most commonly used in opioid addiction treatment. Let’s take a closer look.


What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based approach to treat opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders. MAT combines the use of FDA-approved medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to address addiction more effectively.

The goal of MAT is to help patients achieve full recovery as well as reduce opioid overdose, decrease the illicit use of prescription pain relievers and illicit drugs, and increase patient survival.

As one of the most effective opioid treatment programs around, medication-assisted treatment utilizes medications that help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The key word here is “assisted” because medications alone cannot treat addiction. Alongside medication, counseling and behavioral therapies should also be used. These therapies can help recovering individuals develop coping strategies, address the underlying causes of their addiction, and learn to manage triggers and stressors that contribute to their substance use.

MAT can be considered a form of holistic treatment because of its comprehensive approach to recovery. It treats all aspects of addiction, including the physical, psychological, and social aspects.

Just like the best addiction treatment programs, MAT makes use of individualized treatment plans tailored to the specific needs of each patient. This is necessary since everyone is unique and the effects of addiction are also different for each individual.

MAT programs typically involve regular monitoring of medication adherence and progress in treatment. This helps healthcare providers adjust the treatment plan as needed to ensure the best outcomes.

Medication-assisted treatment has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of relapse and improving the overall quality of life for people who are struggling with opioid or alcohol use disorders.

It is considered a crucial component of harm reduction strategies and a valuable tool in the efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and reduce the burden of addiction. However, MAT should be administered under the supervision of trained healthcare professionals and in conjunction with counseling and support services for the best results.


Who Needs Medication-Assisted Treatment?

This evidence-based treatment can be beneficial for individuals struggling with opioid use disorder. In fact, this is what it is primarily used to treat. It is recommended for people who have been diagnosed with OUD and can include individuals with varying levels of severity.

Pregnant women with OUD are often recommended MAT to prevent the risks associated with opioid withdrawal during pregnancy, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

With that said, medication-assisted treatment can also be used for people who are dealing with alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is also known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction. While MAT for AUD is less common than for OUD, medications like naltrexone, Acamprosate, and disulfiram may be prescribed to help reduce cravings and prevent relapse in individuals with alcohol addiction.

Research is also ongoing into its effectiveness for stimulant use disorders like cocaine or methamphetamine addiction.

MAT may also be beneficial for those who are using multiple substances simultaneously. Addiction is already complex enough, but polydrug abuse can make it even more complicated. MAT can be considered for those who have a primary diagnosis of opioid or alcohol use disorder but also use other substances.

Similarly, people with co-occurring mental health disorders may also go through MAT to address their substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously. This is called a dual diagnosis. Using medication-assisted treatment during a dual diagnosis treatment program may help improve treatment outcomes.

For those who have experienced multiple relapses while attempting to maintain abstinence from opioids or alcohol, MAT can offer a more stable and sustainable approach to recovery.

It’s important to note that the decision to use MAT should be made on an individual basis, taking into account the person’s unique circumstances, medical history, and preferences. This program should always be accompanied by counseling and behavioral therapies to address the psychological and social aspects of addiction.

A healthcare provider or addiction specialist can assess the suitability of MAT for each person and create a personalized treatment plan.

Medications Used in MAT

Now let’s talk about the medications that are most commonly used in MAT.

Medications are typically prescribed to patients who are struggling with substance use disorders, particularly opioid use disorders and alcohol use disorders. However, the primary medications used in MAT vary depending on the substance of abuse.

Medication-Assistred Treatment For Opioid Addiction

There are three FDA-approved medications commonly used in MAT for opioid use disorder. These are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.


Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in those with opioid use disorder. It is typically dispensed in specialized clinics.


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can also help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is available in different forms, including sublingual tablets (Subutex), combination products with naloxone (Suboxone, Zubsolv), and an extended-release injectable form (Sublocade). Some buprenorphine products are combined with naloxone to deter misuse.



Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids. It can help prevent relapse by making it less rewarding to use opioids. Naltrexone is available in oral (Revia) and extended-release injectable (Vivitrol) forms.

Medications Used in MAT for Alcoholism include Acamprosate, Disulfiram, and Naltrexone

Acamprosate helps reduce alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse, discourages alcohol use by causing adverse reactions when alcohol is consumed while taking the medication. Disulfiram will cause nausea and vomiting if the person drinks alcohol under its effects.

MAT is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and its effectiveness may vary from person to person. This means the exact medications and dosage may also depend on the patient’s condition. Healthcare providers will keep an eye on their progress and make adjustments accordingly.

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment comes with several benefits. Mainly, it can reduce a person’s cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for them to focus on their recovery. This approach addresses their constant need to seek and use drugs. By reducing their cravings and withdrawal symptoms, they can comfortably learn about their triggers and stressors in therapy without uncomfortable distractions.

In fact, MAT has been shown to improve retention rates in addiction treatment programs. Patients are more likely to stay engaged in treatment when they are receiving medications that help stabilize their condition.

Drug & Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are a series of physical and mental symptoms that occur after discontinuing or decreasing the intake of a substance the body has become dependent on.

  • Include muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning
  • runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, and more.

MAT for withdrawal symptoms

MAT for withdrawal symptoms designed to alleviate these symptoms and make the detoxification process more manageable. Medications used include:


Reduces withdrawal symptoms in those addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the “high” associated with drug addiction.


Can reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quit opioids.


Primarily used to treat high blood pressure, it can help alleviate some symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

By addressing withdrawal symptoms, MAT can increase the chances of a person staying in treatment and reduce the likelihood of a relapse.

MAT Can Reduce The Risk of Overdose

Not only that, but medications also help keep patients safe. MAT can reduce the risk of overdose because the medications used are safer and have a lower potential for abuse than the substances they are intended to replace. This is particularly important in the context of opioid addiction, where overdose is a significant risk. This helps avoid fatal opioid overdoses.

Potential Reduction Of Release Rates

Medication-assisted treatment reduces the rate of relapse. Without their usual cravings and withdrawal symptoms, patients are much less likely to return to their addictive habits.

Overall, MAT can improve a person’s overall health outcomes and even improve their quality of life. This helps them regain control over their lives, rebuild relationships, and pursue education or employment opportunities.

This treatment has even been associated with a decrease in criminal activity among those with substance use disorders. By addressing the root cause of criminal behavior (drug addiction), and giving them other goals to pursue, they can avoid getting in trouble with the law. Instead, they can pursue meaningful activities that give value to their lives and the lives of those around them.

MAT is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and the choice of medication and treatment plan should be tailored to the patient’s specific needs and preferences. MAT should be provided as part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes counseling and support services to address the psychological and social aspects of addiction.


Other Treatments Used in Addiction Treatment

Remember that MAT is not just about medication; it also includes counseling and behavioral therapies. This comprehensive approach helps individuals develop coping skills, address underlying issues, and maintain their recovery over the long term.

Here are some other treatments and therapies commonly used in addiction treatment:

Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapy helps patients understand the nature of their addiction and get to the bottom of their condition, stressors, and triggers. There are many different types of behavioral therapies, and rehab centers may vary in terms of what treatments they offer. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and contingency management (CM) are all examples of behavioral therapies.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps patients identify and change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors associated with substance use.

Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines CBT with mindfulness techniques to address emotional regulation and interpersonal skills.

Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a client-centered approach that helps addicted individuals explore their ambivalence about change and find motivation to quit using substances.

Contingency Management (CM): CM provides tangible rewards for maintaining sobriety and meeting treatment goals.

Individual Counseling: One-on-one counseling sessions with a therapist or counselor allow patients to delve into the underlying causes of their addiction, while also setting goals, and developing healthy coping strategies.

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions offer peer support and a sense of community. Participants can share their experiences, receive feedback, and learn from others in similar situations. It can be extremely helpful to gain insight and support from people who understand exactly what you are going through.

Family Therapy: Addiction affects not only the individual but also their loved ones. Family therapy can help address relationship issues, improve communication, and provide education and support for family members.

12-Step Programs: Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer a structured, spiritually-oriented approach to recovery through a series of steps and regular meetings.

Alternative Treatments

Some rehab facilities offer alternative treatments such as art therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, equine therapy, massage therapy, and other holistic therapies to help patients express themselves and process emotions during treatment. These work best when used alongside more conventional, evidence-based treatments.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

For addicted individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders, integrated treatment that addresses both addiction and mental health issues is crucial.

A combination of these therapies and services is often used to address the complex nature of addiction and improve the chances of successful recovery. It’s essential for individuals seeking addiction treatment to work with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for their situation.

Addiction treatment may be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, alcoholism, or opioid use disorder, look for a rehab center near you today and learn about the different treatment options that are available to you. The road to recovery begins here.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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