WHAT IS MEDICATION ASSISTED TREATMENT?
When a person is addicted to a substance, the brain craves that substance, and in order to stop the cycle, one option is to receive a medication to allow a normal state of mind, free of drug-induced highs and lows. This option is called medication assisted treatment (MAT), and there are a number of medications currently used. MAT is one tool that assists in freeing the person from the mental obsessions and physical compulsions and helps them to withdraw without severe physical symptoms, and although no withdrawal is completely painless we do assist with various comfort modalities. Recovery is a model; it takes time, a desire to change, and counseling to achieve sustained improvement in lifestyles.
Based on scientific evidence the answer is No! Would you suggest that a Diabetic not take insulin? Is there something wrong with taking medication for the rest of your life if you need it? While a person is taking illicit drugs compulsively the consequence is disastrous. The improvement with medication taken properly, along with, counseling, a commitment to change, as well as spiritual healing may be astonishing to the program participant, and their family.
The most common “opioid replacement therapy” medications in use for treatment of opioid addiction are Methadone and Buprenorphine. These medications work by filling many of the opioid receptors in the brain which can satisfy the craving. You may have heard about Suboxone. What is that? It is a brand name for a special formulation of Buprenorphine which also has an antagonist in the formula, naltrexone to prevent abuse. What is an antagonist? Well, in the case of naltrexone, it completely blocks the brain from craving Opioids (alcohol too). Naltrexone alone can also be injected in once a month treatments. This medication is marketed as Vivitrol.
One advantage of Methadone is that it can be taken safely from the start of treatment, even while still using other opioids, with close medical supervision. It is expected that the participant will eventually take Methadone exclusively. Our staff carefully monitors and warns Suboxone participants that a certain degree of withdrawal must be happening to administer this medication without causing more serious withdrawal. Naltrexone cannot be taken until the opioids are completely out of the body or intense uncomfortable withdrawal will occur. This is an uncomfortable time to be sure, but our staff will provide comfort and support during this time. During the first days and weeks there are frequent sessions to monitor medication and other drug interactions. While frequent attendance may be challenging, it has the benefit of preventing possible life-threatening side effects. There is no “magic bullet”, but our staff is specialized in treating addiction and supporting recovery. All these medications have the same potential positive effect: with counseling and behavior change, they may reduce problematic behaviors, and spiritual healing.