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What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a highly effective approach to treating substance use disorders. It combines the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals struggling with addiction. This blog post will explore Medication Assisted Treatment and how it helps with addiction.

What is Medication Assisted Treatment?

MAT is primarily used for opioid and alcohol use disorders, and it has been proven to improve patient outcomes significantly. By reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can help individuals manage their addiction and facilitate their recovery process. MAT is also beneficial because it helps to restore balance to the brain’s chemistry, which is often altered due to substance abuse. The medications also work to reduce the risk of relapse, as well as improve overall physical and mental health.

What Medications Are Used?

As previously mentioned, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can help in this type of treatment. Suboxone is also used. Here are some more details about these medications used:

  • Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine can produce euphoria, respiratory depression, and typical opioid effects, but its maximal effects are less than those of full opioid agonists like heroin.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist that is non-addictive. In Canada, it is usually taken as a daily pill, but it can also be obtained as a monthly injection and implanted elsewhere.
  • Suboxone: Suboxone’s active ingredients are Buprenorphine and Naloxone. It works by blocking opioid effects and reversing overdoses. Naloxone is sold under the brand name Narcan. The medication, therefore, works by blocking opiates’ reinforcing properties while alleviating cravings for the drug and reducing withdrawal symptoms. Dissolvable tablets or cheek films are used to administer Suboxone daily. The drug is non-addictive and is not commonly abused. As a MAT for opiate dependence, Suboxone has become the gold standard.
  • Methadone: It is an opioid agonist that does not block the reinforcing properties of opiates but prevents cravings and withdrawal symptoms while being taken. Liquid methadone is dispensed daily in specialty clinics under regulated conditions. In addition to requiring laboratory testing and monitoring, it is highly addictive and can be abused.

What are the Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment?

One of the critical benefits of MAT is its ability to stabilize individuals, allowing them to regain control of their lives. By providing relief from the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, MAT enables individuals to focus on their recovery without the constant distraction of craving substances.

Moreover, MAT has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse and overdose. The medications used in MAT work by targeting the same receptors in the brain that are affected by opioids and alcohol, thereby reducing the rewarding effects of these substances. As a result, it makes it less likely for individuals to relapse and increases their chances of long-term recovery.

How else does this treatment work?

In addition to medication, MAT also incorporates counseling and behavioral therapies to address the underlying causes of addiction. By combining medication with therapy, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and acquire the necessary skills to maintain a substance-free lifestyle. For instance, individual counseling often involves:

  • Identifying triggers that may lead to a relapse.
  • Developing strategies to cope with cravings.
  • Exploring ways to build a support system.

Medication Assisted Treatment as a tailored treatment

It is important to note that MAT is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Treatment plans are tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual, taking into account their medical history, substance use patterns, and personal goals. The choice of medication and dosage is determined by healthcare professionals based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s condition.

This approach helps ensure that the person receives the most effective care tailored to their needs. It also allows doctors to monitor progress and adjust treatment plans as needed so that the person can receive the most appropriate care throughout their treatment.

What is the stigma around MAT?

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding MAT, with some people viewing it as simply replacing one addiction with another. However, it is crucial to understand that MAT is a medically approved treatment option that has been endorsed by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). MAT can help people struggling with opioid addiction by providing them with a safe and effective way to manage their cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It also helps them stay engaged in treatment and adhere to their prescribed medications, reducing the risk of relapse. MAT is also associated with improved health outcomes, such as decreased opioid use, lower mortality rates, and improved quality of life. Additionally, MAT can lead to reduced healthcare costs, making it a practical and cost-saving treatment option for opioid addiction.

What positive results have occurred from Medication Assisted Treatment?

MAT has been shown to improve patient engagement in treatment, reduce illicit drug use, decrease criminal activity, and improve overall health outcomes. It offers hope to individuals struggling with addiction, providing them the support and tools they need to achieve and maintain recovery.

Studies have shown that MAT helps decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for people to stay in recovery. According to one study based on residents of Colorado, after six months of Medication Assisted Therapy, participants’ substance use decreased, their physical and mental health improved, and their symptoms reduced. Despite the lack of long-term research on retention, data show improved health outcomes after six months.

Additionally, MAT programs provide wrap-around support services such as counseling, case management, and referrals to other services that can help individuals achieve better overall health outcomes.


Medication Assisted Treatment is a valuable and evidence-based approach to treating substance use disorders. By combining medication with counseling and behavioral therapies, MAT offers a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses addiction’s physical and psychological aspects. It can potentially improve patient outcomes, reduce the risk of relapse and overdose, and ultimately help individuals regain control of their lives.

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