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Medication-Assisted Treatment and its Life-Saving Benefits

A Message from Our CEO

Last month I talked about the importance of increasing access to treatment and doing whatever we can to save lives. In order to do so, we must provide people with all evidence-based treatment options available, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Although medications have been used to treat opioid withdrawal and addiction for decades, there is resistance among the treatment community and patients. According  to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, only 30% of treatment programs nationwide offer MAT and less than half of eligible patients receive medication in treatment programs.

I believe we have an obligation to offer MAT to our recoverees because it’s the best option for sustained recovery. In fact, studies show that 90% of people in recovery for opioid addiction will relapse within the first year without one of the approved MAT medications. It’s important to note—medication assists treatment— it is not a cure.  Recovery is an active process that requires psychosocial and recovery supports. In addition to medication, individuals must learn skills to cope with life and regulate themselves and their mood without substances in order to succeed in recovery.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
MAT is the use of medications, in conjunction with counseling and other behavioral therapies, to treat substance use disorders and prevent overdoses. The most common medications used for MAT are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine both suppress opioid withdrawal and reduce cravings by acting on the opioid receptors in the brain, without producing euphoria. Naltrexone works differently; it controls withdrawal and cravings by blocking the receptors, eliminating the euphoric effects of opioids.

Benefits of Using Medication-Assisted Treatment
Overdose deaths have steadily risen over the past 40 years, as noted in Science Magazine, which has forced us to rethink treatment approaches. As a result, more people are coming to understand the value of MAT and the role it can play in a person’s recovery.

In 2012, the prominent addiction organization, Hazeleden, realized the benefits of MAT and incorporated it into their treatment facilities. More recently, a New York Times article profiled a Tennessee-based facility whose leadership incorporated MAT into their program.

Research has shown, when used at the prescribed doses, these medications don’t produce a high in recoverees; instead, they allow the person to function normally and increase the likelihood that they will remain in a treatment program. Additionally, the use of these medications reduces the risk of infectious diseases and criminal behavior associated with drug use. It also improves the chances that a person will be able to gain and maintain employment.

As I have said before, at Liberation Programs, we do whatever we can to save lives. We understand that MAT plays an important role in recovery. I am happy to see that attitudes are shifting and becoming more accepting of this proven treatment. Many lives can be saved when we work together to decrease the stigma associated with MAT and educate people about its benefits.

Warm regards,

John Hamilton, LMFT, LADC
President and Chief Executive Officer