MAT: Eligibility, Benefits and Risks

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Dominic Nicosia

Written By

Dominic Nicosia
Dr. Po-Chang Hsu -

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Last Medically Reviewed on January 21, 2024

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves the use of certain medications in conjunction with behavioral therapy for alcohol and drug addiction. These medications are individually tailored to each person’s needs and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to decrease cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.

MAT is used to treat certain substance use disorders, including heroin and prescription painkiller addiction and alcohol use disorder (AUD). MAT medications include methadone and buprenorphine for opioid addiction, acamprosate and disulfiram for AUD, and naltrexone for both opioid and alcohol addiction. MAT combined with scientifically proven, effective therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is shown to help patients remain in recovery.

How Does MAT Work?

Medications used in MAT for opioid addiction, such as methadone and buprenorphine, work by acting on the same opioid receptors in the brain as the addictive drug but in a safer and more controlled manner. They help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing a euphoric high. Naltrexone, used for both opioid and alcohol addiction, works by blocking opioid receptors, which reduces opioid cravings and prevents euphoria if opioids are used. The medications used in MAT for AUD, such as acamprosate and disulfiram, work by different mechanisms to reduce alcohol cravings and consumption.

How Does A Person Become Eligible for MAT?

If you are wondering whether you or a loved one is eligible for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), it is best to consult with a medical professional within a rehab or drug and alcohol treatment center. MAT is specifically tailored to each patient depending on their individual needs and unique circumstances. You will work with your care team, including your doctor, case manager, and other stakeholders in your treatment program to determine your eligibility.

What Are the Benefits of MAT?

There are several advantages of medication-assisted treatment. It increases the likelihood of prolonged abstinence from alcohol or drugs by incrementally curtailing cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms.  You will remain in treatment and at decreased risk of spreading and contracting a disease. Additionally, MAT lowers the risk of overdose and relapse and relieves unpleasant and dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. Specifically, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that MAT:

  • Improves patient survival
  • Increases retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increases patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improves birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant

What Are the Possible Risks?

Although medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered safe and is commonly utilized by addiction specialists, it has some potential drawbacks. These include negative side effects, the chance for abuse, and the risk that a patient might replace one addiction for another. For these reasons, it must be administered and closely supervised by a MAT-certified medical facility. Additional risks and side effects include headache, nausea, dizziness, and death from respiratory distress resulting from overdose (particularly in those who are prescribed naltrexone for opioid use disorder). A medical practitioner will only prescribe MAT if they determine that the benefits far outweigh the potential risks to the individual.

How Effective Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been proven to effectively increase program retention, patient survival and likelihood a person will find and maintain employment. MAT also reduces drug and alcohol use and issues associated with use and leads to improved birth outcomes in pregnant women with substance use disorders (SUDs). According to research, MAT decreases a patient’s risk of getting hepatitis c and HIV, as it reduces the chance of relapse.

Where Can I Get MAT?

At Recovery Unplugged, we offer medication-assisted treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl. Call us today at 1-855-384-5794 to speak with a professional. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most major private insurance plans are accepted and we have treatment centers conveniently located nationwide. It’s important to realize that MAT is not a substitute for other elements of treatment and should only be administered alongside behavioral therapy as part of a comprehensive rehab program.

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Dominic Nicosia

Dominic, a seasoned content writer at Recovery Unplugged, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the realm of healthcare writing, particularly in the addiction and recovery field.

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