More than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2019. Opioids were responsible for 70.6% of these overdose deaths. This is a staggering statistic and reveals the extent of our national opioid addiction crisis.
Getting help for addiction can prevent overdoses and deaths. There are many different treatment options, but Medication Assisted Treatment is highly effective for opioid addiction. It could be a big part of your recovery if you struggle with opioid use.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses FDA-approved medications to reduce withdrawal and cravings or to block the effects of opioids. These medications must be prescribed and administered by a qualified healthcare professional. MAT is used in combination with traditional therapy so that the underlying issues driving substance use can be addressed.
Does Medication Assisted Treatment Really Work?
Research into Medication Assisted Treatment’s effectiveness has been promising. Studies have shown that MAT along with counseling or behavioral therapy has produced greater results than other forms of addiction treatment. MAT also tends to lower instances of risky behavior, such as using dirty needles to inject drugs. This has led to decreases in HIV and Hepatitis C infection rates.
MAT is most beneficial for people with substance abuse involving prescription opioids, such as morphine, oxycodone, codeine, and hydrocodone, and non-prescription opiates like heroin. It can also be used to treat alcohol use disorder.
Types of MAT Medications
There are three FDA-approved drugs for MAT: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
Methadone is administered in an outpatient or inpatient daily opioid treatment program. It is available in a pill, wafer, or liquid form. It is a full agonist drug, which means it stimulates the same brain receptors that opioids do. In other words, methadone works by making the brain think it has received an opioid dose. The patient doesn’t experience drug cravings or withdrawal symptoms, which makes it easier to stay sober.
Patients can receive buprenorphine weekly or monthly for home use as long as it’s prescribed by a certified clinician. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist drug, meaning it works similarly to an agonist but with weaker effects on the brain. When taken on a daily basis as a tablet or given as an injection or implant, it reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings for drugs.
Naltrexone works as an antagonist, which means it blocks any opioid effects on the brain. Even if someone were to relapse while taking naltrexone, they would not feel the effects of the opioids. Naltrexone is administered as either a daily pill or a monthly injection. It can be prescribed by any doctor or clinician.
How Long Does MAT Last?
The duration of MAT varies, depending on the type of medication used and the individual patient’s needs. Patients receiving methadone may be advised to undergo therapy for at least one year, according to guidelines from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. After the first 90 days of methadone treatment, the dose should be gradually reduced until the patient is on a maintenance level amount. Over time, the patient may be able to reduce the dose even more until the methadone is no longer needed.
The treatment timeline for buprenorphine may be only a few months or several years. Once the patient has been sober for a time, the dose may be lowered to a maintenance level. Eventually, the dose may be tapered off even more over a period of four to six months until the therapy ends.
The standard treatment timeline for naltrexone is about 12 weeks to help eliminate the need for opioids. Patients must work with their doctors to determine when to end treatment. Because naltrexone works as an antagonist, patients must be careful about its use and completely avoid opioids during treatment. There is a risk of overdosing while on naltrexone since the effects of the opioids aren’t felt.
Does Insurance Cover MAT?
Depending on the patient’s insurance provider and state of residence, insurance may cover some or all of MAT. Federal law mandates that health insurance companies provide coverage for mental health services, including substance abuse programs.
The level of coverage varies between different insurance providers, employers and individual patients. Some plans may not cover all three FDA-approved drug therapies for opioid addiction. Other plans that do provide coverage for the medications may require a detailed prior authorization process from the patient and the doctor before the medication is administered.
Where Can I Get Medication Assisted Treatment?
Many addiction treatment centers offer Medication Assisted Treatment as part of outpatient treatment following detox. It is important to note that patients must completely detox from substances before they start MAT.
High Focus Centers in Cherry Hill, NJ offers Medication Assisted Treatment in combination with our other levels of care. In order to get the best outcome for long-term addiction recovery, we use a comprehensive approach to treatment. Our physicians and other medical staff administer medications and closely monitor their use. Additionally, patients take part in behavioral therapy and counseling to support their recovery.
If you or a loved one uses opioids, Medication Assisted Treatment could be the right fit. Contact the High Focus Centers treatment team to start your recovery.