The Case for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The prescription opioid epidemic has brought a scourge of heroin addiction along with it, forcing both lawmakers and health experts to confront the crisis head on. Some of the measures to combat the opioid epidemic include:

  • Greater Naloxone Access
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • Abuse Deterrent Medications
  • Prescription Drug Take Back Days

While the aforementioned efforts have proven to be effective in a number of ways, they do not do much to address the heart of the problem – addiction. Providing greater access to effective substance use disorder treatments will arguably have the greatest effect. In recent months, there has been much discussion about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which many addiction experts believe to be effective when used in conjunction with behavioral therapies.

“When prescribed and monitored properly, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone are safe and cost-effective components of opioid addiction treatment,” said lead NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. in a commentary. “These medications can improve lives and reduce the risk of overdose, yet medication-assisted therapies are markedly underutilized.”

Drugs, such as, buprenorphine (Suboxone®) are used in treatment settings along with counseling, education, and other support measures, PsychCentral reports. Suboxone greatly reduces the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, allowing the patient to regain a state of normalcy. The drug is a ‘partial opioid agonist’ and an ‘opioid antagonist,’ if a patient were to use an opioid they would not experience euphoric effects.

Unfortunately, while MAT has shown a lot of promise with opioid addiction, it is not used often enough. The lack of MAT programs available is likely to be contributing to the opioid epidemic in America. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recently released new guidelines for the use of medications with behavioral therapy, according to ScienceDaily.

“Suboptimal treatment has likely contributed to expansion of the epidemic as well as concerns for unethical practices,” writes Drs. Kyle Kampman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and Margaret Jarvis of Marworth Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center. “At the same time, access to competent treatment is profoundly restricted because few physicians are willing and able to provide it.”

As is often the case in life, teamwork offers the most hope for survival and recovery: Family members, physicians, therapists and patients working together as a team utilizing various options for successful long-term recovery.

If you or your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

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