Medication Assisted Treatment, also commonly referred to as “MAT,” is an addiction treatment approach which uses specialized medications to improve stabilization from drugs and alcohol and prevent relapse. Depending on the specific addiction, understanding and utilizing MAT in treatment can be incredibly valuable. For opioid addiction, MAT approaches often are life-saving. Some examples of medications from this category include:
- Buprenorphine – Used as an opioid replacement medication, this med has been shown to improve treatment retention, reduce opioid cravings, prevent relapse, and prevent overdose death. Treatment approaches may include initiating the medication, managing tapers, and using maintenance treatment for up to numerous years.
- Naltrexone – This medication is a pure opioid antagonist, or “blocker.” It will prevent opioids from binding to the brain, hence stopping the high of drug use (or the potential for overdose). This medication can be administered in the form of a daily pill or a monthly injection. When used for numerous months in early recovery, the patient is essentially “vaccinated” from opioids and has the ability to focus on rebuilding a life separate from drugs.
- Disulfiram – Also known as Antabuse, this medication is a form of aversion therapy for alcoholism. If patients drink alcohol while maintained on this med, they are likely to experience a severely uncomfortable reaction. This med can be used in high-accountability situations with patients, ensuring their abstinence from alcohol to a greater degree.
- Naltrexone (also FDA approved for alcoholism) – In this usage, naltrexone has shown strong results in reducing cravings to drink alcohol and preventing some of the euphoria from binging on alcohol. It also has been shown to lead to more abstinent days per month as compared to a placebo. Unlike disulfiram, the patient will not get sick if they drink alcohol while taking this medication.
- Varenicline – This medication is FDA approved to help people quit smoking tobacco. It markedly reduces cravings to smoke and also decreases some of the reward and buzz from smoking. This med has a very high success rate (around 73%) in helping patients successfully quit smoking.