Many people believe that using medication in the treatment of substance use disorders is trading one addiction for another. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), use of FDA-approved medications in combination with evidence-based therapies can be effective in the treatment of addiction and may help recovering users stay in treatment longer, extending periods of sobriety and paving the way for successful recovery.
This combination of therapies is known as medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
MAT is commonly integrated into treatment for opioid and alcohol substance use disorders.
Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. A combination of medication and behavioral therapies is effective in the treatment of substance use disorders, and can help some people to sustain recovery.
Buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist, is used to treat someone who is addicted to an opioid – whether the substance being abused is heroin or a prescription painkiller, such as OxyContin or Vicodin. Of the few medications used for opioid dependence, buprenorphine is the first that can be prescribed for and obtained directly from the doctor’s office. To date, other drugs used to treat opioid dependency – such as methadone – can only be administered in clinics.
This increased access for buprenorphine reflects a change in the level of urgency that the opioid epidemic presents to the medical community – one that demands broadened patient access to opioid dependency medication and other forms of treatment.
Buprenorphine isn’t prescribed in isolation; it’s one component of a comprehensive recovery program designed to address the patient’s individual needs.
Buprenorphine alone has potential for abuse and prescription diversion due to its opioid effects. However, formulations that contain a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone decrease the potential for abuse because naloxone otherwise blocks a robust opioid effect and, further, will initiate withdrawal symptoms if attempts are made to misuse it via injection.
When used properly, these buprenorphine-containing medications can both alleviate unpleasant opioid withdrawal and decrease associated cravings.
- From Samsha.gov: Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction – Facts for Families and Friends
- From Nursingworld.org: Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opiate Dependence—It’s Not “Giving Drugs to Drug Addicts”
- From VA.org: From VA.org Understanding PTSD and Treatments
- From PsychiatryOnline.org: Anticraving medications for relapse prevention