medication-assisted treatment

Many people think that using prescription medication for addiction treatment is exchanging one dependence for another. However, studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) state that the effectiveness of FDA-approved medications coupled with addiction treatment therapies may be beneficial throughout the rehab process.

It can assist recovering individuals in remaining in treatment longer, lengthening the duration of sobriety while setting patients up for prosperous recovery. This sequence of treatments is referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Professionals typically combine MAT with therapy for alcohol and opioid use disorders.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Dependence and the recovery process are generally characterized by powerful cravings to use even upon fulfillment of detox and treatment. These cravings could conflict with therapy and enhance the risk of relapsing. Fortunately, specific prescription medications have been hugely successful in helping individuals in recovery to combat these cravings and sustain sobriety.

The blend of medications with treatments that educate patients on how to control triggers and cravings for relapse on a cognitive level encourages lengthened duration of sobriety.

The medication-assisted treatment approach has been shown to:

  • Promote a patients sobriety
  • Increase the recognition of therapy
  • Reduce opiate usage and other substances
  • Increase patients chances of obtaining and sustaining employment
  • Increase birth outcomes amongst ladies who are pregnant and suffer from substance use disorders

Various Types of Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

MAT uses numerous prescription medications to treat two particular addiction substances: alcohol and opioids. Listed below are some of the more generally prescribed drugs used for alcohol or opioid addiction.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist that is used to treat opioid addiction– whether the substance used is a prescription painkiller or opioid, like Vicodin or OxyContin. If taken correctly, these buprenorphine-containing prescriptions can relieve uncomfortable opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

Buprenorphine is known for various names which include:

Buprenorphine only:

  • Butrans
  • Buprenex

Buprenorphine and naloxone:

  • Zubsolv
  • Bunavil
  • Suboxone

Buprenorphine could produce some adverse side effects, which might include fever, irritability, vomiting, nausea, constipation, muscle aches, and sleeping problems.

Probuphine

Probuphine was created to help patients recover from opioid addiction by mitigating withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing a euphoric high. By stabilizing patients and decreasing the cravings linked with opioid addiction, they’ll become better prepared to engage in therapy and treatment.

Probuphine offers benefits over other medications like methadone. Particularly:

  • Probuphine doesn’t require daily dosage, as it delivers a low dose consistently.
  • Probuphine cannot be abusive if the implant remains in position.

Methadone

Methadone is a complete opioid agonist, which implies it produces comparable effects to different opioids. This drug helps to mitigate drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms for a painkiller or heroin addiction. 

Some of the side effects of methadone use could include, vomiting, headache, sweating, dry mouth, mood swings, sleep disorders, stomach ache, loss of appetite, and decreased sex drive.

These side effects could be troubling but seldom present any hazard. Users should get medical help promptly should the listed, more critical effects become present: rash, seizures, itching, hallucinations, face swelling, breathing complications, or severe drowsiness.

Naloxone

Naloxone is an opioid adversary, which indicates it prevents the action of opioids at the receptor positions – conceivably converting or restricting fatal overdoses. As a conceivably life-saving intervention, both loved ones and opioid users must recognize how naloxone operates and how to use it in the case of an overdose.

It is vital to recognize the warning signs of an opioid overdose so naloxone can be administered, if available. Signs of an opioid overdose may include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Losing consciousness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Becoming unresponsive

Naltrexone

Naltrexone works to treat patients suffering from opioid or alcohol addiction. This drug acts by hindering the opioid receptors. It is critical to realize that naltrexone reduces your tolerance to opioids, so relapse can be hazardous if the user returns to the amount they previously used. Overdose and fatal respiratory distress could occur as a consequence.

Side effects that are related to naltrexone treatment might include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, and joint or muscle pain.

Disulfiram

Disulfiram helps to restrict drinking habits by evoking bothersome effects when a person consumes alcohol, curbing the urge to drink. The undesirable effects, which occur roughly 10 to 30 minutes after an individual consumes alcohol, will include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Heart trembles
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Acamprosate

Acamprosate is another form of medication that can work to hinder relapse while promoting sobriety in alcoholics. Studies from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment state that alcohol abuse may lead to neurological adaptations in numerous neurotransmitter systems, like glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

When the brain becomes used to alcohol in the body, a new “equilibrium” is established and maintained once alcohol is consumed. Once alcohol use abruptly slows or stops entirely, the balance could tilt towards a hyper-excitatory situation. 

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms will include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

Some traditional side effects of acamprosate use might include diarrhea, dizziness, flatulence, headache, itchiness, muscle deficiency, or nausea.

The Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

While addiction emotionally affects everyone uniquely, medication-assisted treatment has shown to be an efficient approach to fighting the disease during the recovery process. Studies show that MAT assists patients in becoming comfortable with the recovery process by reducing opioid abuse contrasted with other non-medicated methods.

This is due to the ways in which medication-assisted treatment influences the opioid receptors within the brain. These medications can both reduce opioid cravings and assist patients with the mental, physical, and emotional symptoms that occur during withdrawal.

Medication-assisted treatment aids in alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Another reason why this addiction treatment method is so sufficient is due to the education and support rendered by the treatment specialists at outpatient centers. MAT programs focus on the patient’s requirements while also creating a foundation of support from friends, family, peers, and staff to help them remain sober.

Does MAT Substitute One Addiction For Another?

This is a widespread delusion regarding medication-assisted treatment. These programs can alleviate psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms that produce chemical imbalances in the body while providing a secure and controlled amount of medication to conquer opioid abuse. 

Research shows that when individuals receive the proper dosage, MAT drugs produce no opposing effects on a patient’s physical functioning, mental ability, employability, or intelligence.

Length of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Patients can securely use medication-assisted therapy for months, years, or even the rest of their life. The patient’s treatment plan is designed with their doctor, and intentions to discontinue medication should continuously be consulted before making modifications to their medicines or therapy.

Protocol for Using Medication-Assisted Treatment

Those deciding to start an addiction treatment program will first undergo an intake evaluation by a treatment specialist. The intake process will have three principal intentions:

  • Precisely diagnose substance use disorder
  • Assess the severity of substance addiction
  • Evaluate any co-occurring physical or mental health disorders

Once the specialist assesses the patient’s condition, they’ll decide if they’re a candidate for medication-assisted treatment. SAMHSA states that you are a candidate for medication-assisted treatment if you:

  • Have been diagnosed with an addiction to opioids or alcohol.
  • Are ready to follow prescription directions completely.
  • Do not have physical health concerns that the medication could intensify.
  • Are thoroughly educated on alternative choices.

Conversely, the patient may not be a nominee for medication-assisted treatment if they have a:

  • History of medication abuse.
  • Lack of motivation to become sober.
  • Co-occurring substance dependence.
  • Substance addiction that can’t be treated with an FDA-approved remedy.
  • Critical physical condition, like heart or lung disease, that opioid agonists could elaborate.

The Search For New Medications

One of the biggest challenges in MAT is the misuse of prescription medications that help to manage cravings. Some users experience cravings that are so severe that they start to abuse the addiction treatment medication, which hinders pharmacotherapy.

There is a vital necessity for abuse-resistant medicines to ease addiction cravings, and researchers are beginning to find some resolutions. One new medication that has revealed some encouraging effects is named OMS405 made from the biopharmaceutical corporation Omeros.

OMS405 has been linked to a decline in anxiety and cravings in patients with a heroin-addicted when used with buprenorphine/naloxone. Its effectiveness as a treatment medication increases beyond heroin dependence and has additionally been connected with a decrease of cravings and recovery of the brain of patients addicted to cocaine. While still in clinical tests, these medications are proving to work for addiction treatment and extensive help for patients looking to get sober.

Addiction Treatment Doesn’t End with MAT

Medication alone is not sufficient enough to help patients obtain and sustain long-term abstinence. Efficient addiction treatment addresses the whole patient and merges the use of:

  • Medicine
  • Learning
  • Relapse restriction programs
  • Evidence-based behavioral treatments

The use of medications during treatment can help patients to continue their sobriety. But also, the behavioral therapies address underlying conditions linked to substance abuse, assists in developing a positive self-image, improve negative thoughts, emotions, and actions, along with teaching and building healthful coping skills. This therapeutic alliance is at the essence of medication-assisted treatment.

Contact Us Today About Medication-Assisted Treatment

North Jersey Recovery Center helps patients recover from all types of addictive behaviors. These include alcohol addiction, heroin abuse, cocaine abuse, benzodiazepine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. We also work to help those who are suffering from the effects of co-occurring disorders (dual diagnoses).

If you or a loved one is suffering from substance addiction and could benefit from medication-assisted treatment, reach out to our treatment specialists today. Our representatives are available 24/7 to answers the questions you have concerning addiction treatment.

The journey to sobriety isn’t an effortless one to take. But with proper support and an addiction treatment program, it is achievable. Please don’t delay any longer; contact our specialists today, and allow us to get you the answers you seek!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.