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The Truth About
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Learn more about the benefits of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at New Choices Treatment Center.



Imagine struggling with a powerful urge to consume drugs or alcohol, despite the negative consequences it brings to your life. This is the reality for many people battling substance use disorders (SUD).
Fortunately, there is a form of treatment that can significantly increase a person’s chances of achieving lasting recovery: medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

Overview of MAT

For many years, traditional treatment programs for SUD relied solely on behavioral therapy and counseling. While these methods can be highly beneficial, they often fall short when faced with the intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.
This is where MAT steps in. It offers a powerful and evidence-based approach that significantly improves recovery rates.

Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Studies have consistently shown that MAT, when combined with behavioral therapy, is more effective than behavioral therapy alone in:1
  • Reducing illicit opioid use
  • Increasing treatment retention 
  • Decreasing overdose deaths
  • Improving general health

What to Expect from This Article

The success of MAT lies in its ability to normalize brain chemistry and reduce the intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that fuel drug use.
This article delves into the world of MAT, exploring:
  • Its effectiveness
  • The benefits it offers people struggling with SUD
  • The challenges associated with its implementation
By understanding medication-assisted treatment, we can empower those seeking recovery and shed light on a valuable tool in the fight against addiction.

Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a groundbreaking approach to treating substance use disorders. It combines the use of medications with behavioral therapies and counseling to create a comprehensive recovery program.2

"During the medical detox phase, patients receive comprehensive support and continuous monitoring to ensure their safety and comfort. This includes 24/7 medical supervision to closely observe vital signs and manage withdrawal symptoms. Medical staff are on hand to provide medications that alleviate discomfort and reduce cravings. Emotional support is also a key component, with counselors and therapists available to help patients cope with the psychological aspects of detox. Additionally, patients are provided with nutritious meals, hydration, and a calm, supportive environment to aid their overall well-being. This holistic approach ensures that patients are well cared for throughout the detox process, paving the way for a successful transition to ongoing treatment."

Defining Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Unlike traditional treatment methods that solely rely on behavioral interventions, MAT recognizes the powerful role medications can play in managing the physiological aspects of addiction.
By incorporating medications that address cravings and withdrawal symptoms, MAT helps people overcome the physical hurdles that often hinder their recovery journey.

Types of Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The specific medication used in MAT depends on a person’s needs and the type of substance they are addicted to.
Here’s a breakdown of the three main categories:

Opioid Agonists

These medications include methadone and buprenorphine. They activate the same opioid receptors in the brain as illicit opioids, but with a weaker effect. This reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing the intense “high” associated with misuse.3

Opioid Antagonists

Medications like naltrexone block the effects of opioids on the brain. This prevents people from feeling the pleasurable effects of drug use.4
This can be a powerful tool for those who have already achieved abstinence and want to prevent relapse.

Partial Agonists

Buprenorphine can also act as a partial agonist. This means it partially activates opioid receptors. It can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but to a lesser extent than full agonists.5
This can be helpful for people transitioning off of stronger medications.

The Evolution of MAT

The concept of MAT has evolved significantly over time. Initially, it was seen as “opioid replacement therapy.” It focused on substituting illicit opioids with a safer, regulated medication.
But, the understanding of addiction has broadened. MAT is now recognized as a comprehensive treatment approach.
Medications are used in conjunction with:

"We implement several key strategies to ensure continuity of care and follow-up after a medical detox program. After detox, each patient receives a personalized treatment plan tailored to their ongoing recovery needs. This plan typically includes referrals to inpatient or outpatient rehab programs, therapy sessions, support groups, and any necessary medications. We schedule follow-up appointments to monitor progress and address any emerging issues. Our team stays in regular contact with patients to provide ongoing support and adjust their treatment plans as needed. Additionally, we coordinate with other healthcare providers to ensure a seamless transition and comprehensive care. By maintaining open communication and providing structured follow-up, we support patients throughout their recovery journey, helping them achieve long-term success."

The Role of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in SUD Recovery

MAT plays a crucial role in addressing the biological components of addiction. Addiction significantly alters brain chemistry. This can lead to intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to manage.6
MAT uses medications that target these changes in brain chemistry. This helps to normalize function and reduce cravings.
By mitigating the physical symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, MAT allows people to focus more effectively on their recovery journey. This improves their chances of success.

Improving Treatment Outcomes

One of the most significant benefits of MAT is its ability to improve treatment outcomes. Studies have shown that people receiving MAT are more likely to remain in treatment and less likely to relapse compared to those receiving only behavioral therapy.7
MAT’s combination of medication and therapy creates a supportive environment that enhances retention in care. This combination provides people with the stability and support needed to maintain their recovery.
This integrated approach significantly reduces relapse rates, contributing to long-term sobriety.

Enhancing Quality of Life

MAT also enhances the quality of life for people with substance use disorders. By addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, MAT helps restore normal functioning and stability. People are better able to:
  • Engage in daily activities
  • Maintain employment
  • Build healthier relationships 
Through MAT, people can achieve a more balanced and fulfilling life, free from the grip of addiction.

Integrating Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) with Behavioral Therapies

Below are some of the ways MAT is used in conjunction with behavioral therapies:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a cornerstone of effective addiction treatment when combined with MAT. CBT helps people develop essential coping skills and strategies to prevent relapse.
This therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to addiction.8
By enhancing coping mechanisms and providing tools for managing stress and triggers, CBT supports the effectiveness of MAT. This makes it easier for people to maintain their recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is another valuable behavioral therapy integrated with MAT. Originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT has proven effective in addressing substance use disorders.
DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness practices to help people:
  • Regulate emotions
  • Tolerate distress
  • Improve interpersonal relationships 
This therapy provides a comprehensive approach to managing the emotional and psychological challenges of addiction, complementing the benefits of MAT.9

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT is another effective therapy that can be integrated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). REBT focuses on identifying and changing irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns that contribute to emotional distress and unhealthy behaviors.10
By helping people develop more rational and positive ways of thinking, REBT supports the goals of MAT. It does this by reducing the emotional triggers that can lead to substance use.
This therapy empowers people to manage their emotions better and make healthier choices, enhancing their recovery process.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a therapy that can be particularly beneficial for people with substance use disorders who have experienced trauma. When combined with MAT, EMDR helps people process traumatic memories and reduce their emotional impact.
This therapy involves guided eye movements and other bilateral stimulation techniques to help people reprocess and heal from past traumas.11
By addressing the underlying trauma, EMDR supports the effectiveness of MAT by reducing the triggers and stressors that can lead to substance use.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Family Therapy

Family therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process for people undergoing MAT. Addiction often affects not only the client but also their loved ones. Family therapy engages family members in the treatment process, fostering understanding, communication, and support.
By involving loved ones, this therapy helps build a strong support system, which is vital for long-term recovery.
Family therapy:
  • Addresses relationship dynamics
  • Educates family members about addiction
  • Provides tools for supporting their loved one’s journey to sobriety

"Determining when a patient is ready to transition from medical detox to ongoing addiction treatment involves several key factors. We monitor their physical stability, ensuring that acute withdrawal symptoms have been effectively managed and are under control. Additionally, we assess their mental and emotional readiness, looking for improvements in mood and cognitive function. Once the patient is physically stable and emotionally prepared, we develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs. This plan may include inpatient or outpatient rehab, therapy, support groups, and any necessary medications. The goal is to ensure the patient is stable and has a clear, supportive pathway for continued recovery. By carefully evaluating these factors, we can make a smooth and effective transition to ongoing addiction treatment, setting the stage for long-term success."

Addressing Stigma and Misconceptions Surrounding MAT

MAT is often misunderstood, which can hinder its acceptance and utilization. One common myth is that MAT simply replaces one addiction with another. But, this view overlooks the scientific evidence supporting MAT.
The medications used in MAT are specifically designed to:
  • Stabilize brain chemistry
  • Reduce cravings
  • Block the euphoric effects of opioids, rather than induce a high
MAT, when combined with behavioral therapies, is highly effective in reducing illicit drug use and improving treatment retention.

Challenging Stigma Surrounding Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Stigma is a significant barrier to the widespread acceptance of MAT. Many people, even within the medical community, may hold negative views about MAT. This could be due to a lack of understanding or biases against using medications in addiction treatment.
Challenging this stigma involves advocating for MAT as a legitimate, evidence-based treatment modality. Highlighting success stories and educating both the public and healthcare professionals about the proven benefits of MAT can help shift perceptions.
It can also promote its acceptance as a vital component of comprehensive addiction treatment.

Promoting Education and Awareness About Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Promoting education and awareness about MAT is crucial for empowering people to make informed decisions about their recovery.
Many people struggling with SUD, as well as their families, may have misconceptions about its effectiveness and safety.
By providing accurate information and resources, treatment centers can help people understand:
  • How MAT works
  • Its benefits
  • Its role in a comprehensive recovery plan
Increased awareness can lead to greater acceptance and utilization of MAT. This will ultimately improve recovery outcomes for more people.

Challenges and Considerations When Implementing MAT

Below are some challenges for incorporating MAT into a treatment plan:

Barriers to Medication Access and Insurance Coverage

One major challenge in using MAT is making sure people can get the medications they need. Many face obstacles like:
  • Not having local doctors who offer MAT
  • Limited supplies of medications
  • Strict insurance rules
These barriers can stop people from getting the full benefits of MAT. To fix this, there needs to be changes in policies, more funding, and better insurance coverage to make MAT available to everyone who needs it.

Adherence and Compliance in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Following the treatment plan is crucial for MAT to work well. It’s important that people take their medications regularly and as prescribed. But, challenges like forgetting to take the medication, fear of stigma, and lack of support can interfere with this.
Regular follow-up care, including check-ins with healthcare providers, counseling, and support groups, can help improve adherence. Creating detailed care plans that include these support measures is essential for the success of MAT programs.

Monitoring and Safety of Medications in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Safety is crucial in MAT. The medications used in MAT need to be given and monitored carefully to avoid misuse and manage any side effects. Regular check-ups by healthcare professionals ensure that medications are used safely and effectively.
This includes:
  • Routine assessments of physical and mental health
  • Making changes to the treatment as needed
  • Constant medical supervision and support
medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

Our Approach to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

At New Choices Treatment Center (NCTC), MAT is an important part of treating substance use disorders. It is combined with proven therapies to give clients the best care.
By using both medications and therapy, NCTC addresses both the physical and mental components of addiction. This approach improves recovery outcomes and helps clients stay sober for the long term.

Individualized Care

Each person’s recovery journey is different, and NCTC understands the need for personalized care. MAT plans are customized to fit each client’s specific needs and goals.
This personalized approach ensures that the chosen medications and therapies are best suited for the client’s situation.
By tailoring MAT plans, we help clients manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms effectively while also addressing the root causes of their addiction.

Supporting Clients in Reclaiming Their Lives Through MAT

NCTC is dedicated to helping clients reclaim their lives from addiction. Through MAT, clients get the support they need to overcome substance use disorders. It helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing clients to build stable and fulfilling lives.
By offering this comprehensive care, NCTC helps clients achieve and maintain long-term recovery, improving their quality of life.

Embracing Hope Through Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Substance use disorders can feel overwhelming and isolating. However, MAT offers a beacon of hope for people struggling to overcome addiction.
By effectively managing symptoms and promoting long-term recovery, MAT empowers people to reclaim their lives. With MAT as a powerful tool, our clients can embark on a journey of healing and renewal.

Create a Healthier Future With Empowering New Choices

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. New Choices Treatment Center offers a variety of treatment options, including MAT, to support people on their path to recovery.
Contact us today at (726) 888-7003 or reach out online to take the first step toward a brighter future.
Recovery is possible, and you don’t have to fight this battle alone.