Pros and Cons of Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Medication-assisted treatment has helped countless people escape the chains of active addiction and discover the hope and promise of long-term recovery. In today’s post, we look at the pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment and discuss how to determine if this approach is right for you.

Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment

Before we explore the pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment, it can be helpful to review some fundamental facts about this type of treatment.

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is an evidence-based approach that has proved to be extremely effective at helping people end their use of heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opioids. MAT can also be beneficial for people who have developed alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcoholism).

The two primary components of MAT are prescription medication and therapy:

  • Certain medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, can eliminate cravings or ease other withdrawal symptoms. These medications can make it easier for a person to stop using the drug they had become addicted to.
  • Therapy can help a person address the psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction and recovery. During therapy sessions, people can address the underlying causes of their struggles with substances and develop essential relapse-prevention skills.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), medication-assisted treatment has been linked with improved patient survival rates, greater retention in treatment, decreased drug use and criminal activity, and increased employability. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

No type of addiction treatment is perfect for everyone. This is why it is so important to thoroughly review all the options that are available to you before you make your final decision. For opioid addiction and alcoholism, this includes exploring the pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment. 

Let’s begin with the positive features of MAT:

  • The medications that have earned FDA approval for use in MAT programs have been thoroughly studied, and they have proved to be safe and effective for both short- and long-term use.
  • Being able to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms can give your mind and body the opportunity to heal from the ravages of compulsive substance abuse, while at the same time you can begin to build the skills that will support your recovery.
  • Several reputable organizations, including SAMHSA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have all endorsed MAT as an effective first-line treatment option for addictions to opioids and alcohol.
  • Many insurance providers cover MAT, which removes a financial obstacle that may have once prevented people from accessing this life-affirming service.

And here are a few potential drawbacks to MAT:

  • Most of the medications that are used in MAT programs must be taken on a daily basis. At the beginning of a person’s time in treatment, they may be required to visit their doctor or clinic every day to get that day’s dose.
  • At the outset of a person’s time in a MAT program, there can be a trial-and-error period until they and their doctor find the right medication at the right dosage level.
  • Though public understanding of the benefits of MAT has improved considerably over the years, an unfortunate stigma persists among some people. We’ll address this in greater detail in the next section.

The Stigma Behind MAT

As we noted at the end of the previous section, some people unfortunately hold a less-than-favorable view of medication-assisted treatment. With decades of research documenting its safety and effectiveness, why is MAT still considered controversial in some circles?

The problem relates to how different people define recovery. Some people believe that a person cannot be “truly recovered” if they are taking medication to manage their symptoms. According to this distorted viewpoint, taking daily or monthly medication to prevent withdrawal is simply substituting one addiction for another.

Thankfully, most members of the addiction recovery community understand that taking an approved prescription medication to manage withdrawal symptoms is no more problematic than taking insulin to manage diabetes or taking any other prescription drugs to manage other chronic medical concerns.

Remember: Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. It cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed. For some people, effective symptom management requires therapy and education. For others, it also involves medication. There are many paths to recovery – what matters most is finding the path that’s right for you.

How to Know if Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Right for You

The best way to determine if medication-assisted treatment is right for you is to consult with a reputable addiction treatment provider. This professional can assess your needs, review your treatment history, answer all your questions, and help you decide if MAT is the optimal choice for you.

Once you have been admitted into a MAT program, your treatment team will work with you to determine which medication (and which dosage level) will provide maximum benefit. They will also identify the therapies and support services that align most closely with your needs and goals. Working together, you can end your substance abuse and build a solid foundation for successful, long-term recovery from addiction.

Contact Our Medication-Assisted Treatment Center at Renewal

Renewal Health Group offers MAT and a full continuum of other addiction treatment services at multiple convenient locations throughout southern California. 

In each facility within the Renewal network, you can expect to receive individualized care and close personal support from a team of highly skilled and deeply compassionate professionals. We understand the ways that addiction can impact virtually every aspect of your life, and we are committed to developing the customized solutions that will empower you to pursue a much healthier and more hopeful future.

To learn more about MAT or other types of addiction treatment, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call our center today.

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