Drug Abuse BLOG

Drug addiction remains to haunt communities and individuals everywhere, and this has prompted world governments and law enforcement agencies to strengthen measures for prevention and treatment. Unless intervention is done immediately, substance abuse may lead to an individual’s early demise. In this article, let us look into medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and assess its effectiveness in drug addiction recovery.

When an individual is taken into a rehabilitation center, the process of making the individual cease dependence on the drug isn’t as easy as abruptly taking the drug out of the system. In this case, a standard detoxification process is performed wherein the amount of drug that the recovering addict uses is reduced each day until the individual is able to handle having to live without any ounce of that drug.

1. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) defined

Medication-assisted treatment is given to individuals who have an ongoing substance addiction crisis. This type of intervention provides specific pharmaceutical drugs that are combined with both counseling and behavioral therapies.

Using medically-assisted treatment correctly can make a huge difference, since it allows the drug user to have a second chance in life, rather than just see him one day meeting his early demise due to overdose.

A properly administered MAT is perfectly safe, as proven by years of research. It is considered an effective treatment option for substance abuse – drug users are more likely to recover from an opioid addiction and stay sober through MAT compared to those who don’t undergo this kind of treatment.

Certain groups have provided their full support to MAT for the treatment of drug abuse, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.

Other types of medications are designed to balance cravings in certain drugs like nicotine and marijuana. Medication-assisted treatment is most often associated with three types of drug addiction: alcohol, opioids, and stimulants.

2. Types of Drugs Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

In most cases, individuals are given a particular medication that will help them avoid dangerous withdrawal side effects. These types of medications work as opioid antagonists, which are designed to bind to opioid receptors to prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings.

If the individual being treated attempts to use an illicit substance while on medication, it will prevent the individual from having the usual euphoric sensation typically associated with the use of the drug. An example of an opioid antagonist is naltrexone.

Other medications work by changing the way that the body metabolizes a drug, in which they act as drug deterrents. Using this type of medication makes the person feel ill if they attempt to use an illicit substance while on medication.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that has been successfully used in rehabilitation programs for decades. It is taken in low doses to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Methadone is an opioid agonist – when the individual takes it, the brain creates the same feeling as that of using heroin or similar substances but with less intensity, reduced speed, and longer-lasting effect. Agonists somehow trick the brain into thinking that it has received opioid painkillers, making the individual feel normal with minimal to nil withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

MAT is a useful treatment, particularly when combined with intensive individual psychotherapy and group support. Aside from removing the illicit drug from the person’s system and mind, treating drug addiction has also something to do with addressing any underlying problems that have led the individual to use drugs.

In other words, if an individual will go through MAT without any other forms of supportive therapy, the recovery may be slim. However, it should be noted that there are also some pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment.

The list of drugs used for medication-assisted treatment includes the following:

  • Acamprosate. This medication is used for people in recovery from alcohol abuse. Acamprosate works to prevent individuals from drinking alcohol but may not prevent withdrawal symptoms. The use of this medication begins on the fifth day of abstinence and reaches its full effectiveness in 5 to 8 days.
  • Buprenorphine. This drug suppresses and reduces cravings for the abused substance. It can be in the form of a pill or sublingual tablet.
  • Disulfiram. This drug is used to treat chronic alcoholism. which is most effective when the individual has already gone through detoxification. Drinking alcohol while on medication can result in unpleasant side effects.
  • Methadone. This tricks the brain into thinking that it is still getting the illicit drug. But the fact is, the person is not getting high from it. Because the user feels nothing out of the ordinary, no withdrawal symptoms occur.
  • Naloxone. This is the most common medication used to block the effects of opioids, particularly during an overdose.
  • Naltrexone. Naltrexone works differently from methadone and buprenorphine when used in the treatment of opioid dependence. If the individual being treated tries to use an illicit substance while under medication, naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of the illicit substance and prevents the euphoric feeling.

DrugConfirm Advanced Opiate Drug Test Dip Card

3. Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Some rehabilitation programs include medication-assisted treatment as they see it beneficial to the complete recovery of a drug user. Some of the advantages of MAT include:

  • Positive birth outcome for pregnant women in recovery
  • Improved treatment outcomes
  • Reduction in disease and violent crime
  • Reduction in drug-related overdose deaths

It is believed that using MAT as part of drug and alcohol rehab can significantly increase the chances of full recovery. When you think about how a drug user’s life has become since he started using drugs, he may have gone through a lot of stages until it reaches a point where the person in that body is not the person you used to know. In this light, there is a need for complete rehabilitation with the use of medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse.

4. Drawbacks of using Medication-Assisted Treatment

Rehabilitation programs that included medication-assisted treatment have not been always welcomed by some people who doubt this kind of treatment. Some people, particularly the family and relatives of the drug users, are wary if the MAT is an effective cure for drug dependence. Some of the reasons for apprehension are:

  • Element of trickery: Medication-assisted treatment may help curb withdrawal symptoms associated with the elimination of the illicit substance, but the brain still thinks that the body is taking the drug. It’s like tricking the mind into thinking that the illicit substance is still in existence but has the ability to control withdrawal symptoms. As a result, some people feel that the individual may be living in another world that is completely different from the normal life that he used to have.
  • Alternative way of drug dependence: While some may see that using medication-assisted treatment helps users avoid the use of illicit substances, it may only be pushing them to a different path of dependency. As a result, the normal way of living of the individual may not become apparent after all.

5. Facts and Figures About MAT

In 2015, Harvard Medical School made follow-ups of all their patients who were given naltrexone and buprenorphine medications as treatment for their drug dependence. Their findings indicated two factors:

  • Patients who were under opioid agonist therapy were reported to have a higher likelihood of abstaining from using illicit substance than those who were not using the same therapy.
  • Patients who have used heroin found it more difficult to overcome their opioid addiction than those who have never used heroin.

The success rate of medication-assisted treatment could not be thoroughly determined as some of the medical professionals do not believe that it’s the best solution in helping individuals with drug dependence problems. However, some may have seen it as highly effective, as proven by medical professionals who made long-term follow-ups to their patients.

Out of 124 patients who started with the medically-assisted treatments, about 26 percent were not able to complete the initial stage of rehabilitation (i.e. detoxification). The remaining patients were offered a 28-day inpatient rehabilitation or outpatient counseling.

After 3 months, unfortunately, there were only 4 patients who succeeded in getting rid of their substance abuse problem. This equates to a success rate of only 3 percent. With this, it only shows that there is a need to incorporate MAT in standard rehabilitation programs to prevent relapse and boost their chances for recovery.

Medication-assisted treatment may be found to be effective, but this type of treatment may not be for everyone. Experts say that this is intended to work for people who have chronic alcoholism and severe opiate addiction, as well as those individuals who have a history of relapses. Integrating prescription medication with several therapies builds a more solid foundation for the individual to experience full recovery, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Opiates Drug Test Strip

6. Legal Considerations and Guidelines on MAT

Medication-assisted treatment is allowed in all 50 states. However, it should be noted that the programs may be different in their clinical policies and procedures for each state but are generally similar in principle and objectives.

Although the substances used for the treatment of drug dependency are recommended, it should also be noted that there are guidelines to follow in using them.

Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000

This act permits physicians who meet certain qualifications to treat opioid dependency with narcotic medications approved by the FDA. This includes a prescription for buprenorphine.

MAT Legislations

Some medications used in MAT are controlled substances governed by the Controlled Substances Act. This Act comprises federal drug policies responsible for regulating the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of controlled substances.

Treatment Improvement Protocol 63

TIP 63 reviews the use of the three FDA-approved medications that are used to treat an opioid use disorder, namely methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. It also assesses allied services that are needed to support full recovery for people with opioid use disorder.

42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 8

This acknowledges the existence of some individuals who have become opioid-dependent, and that there is a need for medications to be used by these people at different times. This regulation also preserves state authorities to regulate opioid treatment programs (OTP). Additionally, this absolutely protects patient’s confidentiality.

Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs – 2015

This serves as a guide for organizations to be given accreditation regarding developing accreditation standards. This also provides OTPs with the information on how programs can maintain compliance with federal regulations.

7. Online Resources for MAT

Here is a list of links to good resources about MAT:

https://www.confirmbiosciences.com/knowledge/drug-facts/buprenorphine/

https://www.confirmbiosciences.com/knowledge/drug-facts/methadone/

https://www.confirmbiosciences.com/knowledge/blog/reversing-opioid-overdose-naloxone-antidote-solve-north-american-drug-epidemic/

https://testcountry.com/pages/all-you-need-to-know-about-alcohol-abuse-and-testing

https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/mat/mat-overview

https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/15/medication-assisted-treatment-what-we-know/

https://www.buppractice.com/node/3596

https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/review-medication-assisted-treatment-guidelines-and-measures-opioid-and-alcohol-use

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/recovery/medication_assisted_treatment_9-21-20121.pdf

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction

Ultimately, the goal of MAT is to provide a program that can lead to full recovery from opioid dependence and to help people maintain sobriety for a more productive life. After facts have been stated, it is up to you to determine if this should be part of all drug rehabilitation programs or not.