Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

What is MAT?

How does it work?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole-patient approach to treatment. MAT is used to treat addiction to opioids such as heroin or prescription pain relievers.

MAT utilizes medications to stabilize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions. MAT is not a standalone treatment. For best results, the medication treatment must be combined with behavioral therapy, psychosocial supports, and other community services. 

What Are The Medications Used In MAT? 

What are some of the benefits of MAT? 

There are three FDA-approved medications used in the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD): methadone, buprenorphine (i.e., Suboxone) and naltrexone (also known as Vivitrol).

According to the World Health Organization, buprenorphine and methadone are “essential medicines.” for people struggling with addiction, the use of these medications in combination with behavioral services can help sustain recovery better than just medication or psychosocial treatment on their own.    

  1. Decreases opioid-related overdose deaths 

  2. Decreases illicit opioid use Increases social functioning

  3. Better retention in treatment

  4. Decreases criminal activity

  5. Decreases transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C

  6. Improved maternal and fetal outcomes for pregnant or breastfeeding women

MAT Facts & Myths

Myth: MAT JUST TRADES ONE ADDICTION FOR ANOTHER

Fact: MAT bridges the biological and behavioral components of addiction. Research indicates
that a combination of medication
and behavioral therapies can successfully treat SUDs and help sustain recovery. (10)

Myth: MOST INSURANCE PLANS DON’T COVER MAT

Fact: As of May 2013, 31 state Medicaid FFS programs covered methadone maintenance treatment provided in outpatient programs (4). State Medicaid agencies vary as to whether buprenorphine is listed on the Preferred Drug List (PDL), and whether prior authorization is required (a distinction often made based on the specific buprenorphine medication type). Extended-release naltrexone is listed on the Medicaid PDL in over 60 percent of states. (5)

Myth: MAT IS ONLY FOR THE
SHORT TERM

Fact: Research shows that
patients on MAT for at least 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success. There is currently no evidence to support benefits from stopping MAT. (11)

Myth: PROVIDING MAT WILL ONLY DISRUPT AND
HINDER A PATIENT’S
RECOVERY PROCESS:

Fact: MAT has been shown to assist patients in recovery by improving quality of life, level of functioning and the ability to handle stress. Above all, MAT helps reduce
mortality while patients begin recovery.

Myth: MAT INCREASES THE
RISK FOR OVERDOSE
IN PATIENTS

Fact: MAT helps to prevent overdoses from occurring. Even a single use of opioids after detoxification can result in a life-threatening or fatal overdose. Following detoxification, tolerance to the euphoria brought on by opioid use remains higher than tolerance to respiratory depression. (14)

Myth: THERE ISN’T ANY PROOF THAT MAT IS BETTER THAN ABSTINENCE

Fact: MAT is evidence-based and is the recommended course of treatment for opioid addiction. American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Medical Association, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies emphasize MAT as first-line treatment. (8)

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