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Common Misconceptions of MAT Treatment

Evidence suggests that MAT Treatment (Medication-Assisted Treatment) is an effective treatment for addiction. Learn more below.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medications and counseling or behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treating substance use disorders.1 Because medically assisted treatment is a relatively new treatment modality, you may be unsure of its effectiveness. Read on to find out more about MAT.

MAT Effectiveness

According to Dr. Nora Volkow, the National Institute on Drug Abuse director, “Studies have shown that outcomes are much better when you are on medication-assisted treatment. For one, it decreases the risk of relapse — significantly. Second, MAT has also been shown to prevent infectious diseases like HIV. Third, the medication-assisted treatment effectively prevents overdoses.” 2 Again, MAT is regarded as an evidence-based treatment, which means that it has been proven that medically assisted treatment is clinically effective.

MAT Medications

Several medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in MAT treatment. MAT medications can be used for:

  • Alcohol Abuse: The most common medications used for alcohol addiction are acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone.
  • Opioid Abuse: In treating opioid abuse using MAT, medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are commonly used.
  • Opioid Dependence: Opioid dependence is also treated with buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. To prevent overdose, naloxone is mostly used.
  • Other Substances: Depending on the substance, your doctor can prescribe any FDA-approved MAT medications suitable for the substance.
MAT Treatment

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment 

To enjoy the benefits of MAT, you must be placed under a licensed MAT treatment program. These benefits include the following:

MAT Works

Ongoing and recent research has proven the effectiveness of using a medically assisted treatment for substance use disorder. This means that MAT indeed works. 

MAT is Affordable 

MAT treatment is affordable, and when compared to the cost of sustaining an addiction, MAT treatment is way cheaper and much more beneficial to you. 

MAT Allows Greater Freedom 

MAT allows you to return to your normal routine while still receiving medical and psychological care to help you adapt and recover more quickly. 

MAT Can Be Part of a Greater Framework 

A variety of holistic therapies can assist MAT and help it reach its full potential in more extensive and patient-centered programs. 

MAT Can Bridge the Gap

When you continue with MAT treatment after your initial treatment, you’ll feel secure and strong enough to proceed in your recovery journey with less assistance. 

What is MAT, and How Does it Work?

MAT treatment is mostly employed in treating opioid abuse such as heroin. The therapy part of this treatment aims to help patients overcome their addictive tendencies. On the other hand, the medications help reduce withdrawal symptoms and increase patients’ survival. Here are some of the effects of MAT treatment:

Increased Treatment Retention

Among opiate-dependent individuals, retention in medication-assisted treatment is linked to improved outcomes.3

Improved Patient Survival

Patients on a MAT treatment plan are very likely to retain treatment and stay entirely on the path of recovery and sobriety.

Improved Birth Outcomes Among Women Who Have Substance Dependency

Methadone MAT treatment during pregnancy helps enhance prenatal care, decreases the use of illegal drugs, and lowers the risk of fetal withdrawal in the womb.4

Decreased Criminal Activities Related to Substance

Using MAT treatment can prevent the influence of the harmful drugs that lead to crimes related to substances.

Increased Ability to Obtain and Maintain Employment

MAT treatment enables patients to obtain employment and sustain it. It is also flexible enough to help people stay at their jobs.

Information About Medication-Assisted Treatment

If you’re skeptical about engaging in a licensed MAT treatment program, this additional information might convince you.

Prevent Relapse 

When used in conjunction with integrated treatment modalities that address other health factors, MAT can help avoid relapse and allow for more extended periods of sobriety.

Normalize Brain Chemistry


Medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and 
alcohol addiction can assist persons in maintaining recovery until their brain structures and functions return to normal.  

Block the Euphoric Reaction of Substances

Some MAT medications work by blocking the euphoric reaction induced by substances to prevent relapse.

Alleviate Withdrawal Symptoms

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder works to gradually wean patients off the narcotics so that the detox process does not surprise their bodies. Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol addiction is also effective in alleviating withdrawal symptoms.

Reduce Cravings

MAT programs can help you overcome intense cravings through MAT medications.  

Help Facilitate Therapy

As a result of MAT medications, patients are in a better place to welcome therapy.

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

There are two ways MAT treatment can be implemented:

  • Doctors can prescribe opiates that activate the same receptors but take longer to absorb into the bloodstream, preventing withdrawal symptoms and breaking the psychological association between taking a drug and feeling euphoric right away, or,
  • Doctors can also prescribe an opioid antagonist, which is a non-opioid medicine that binds to the same receptors as opioids and blocks them so that if someone relapses, they won't feel anything.2

Below are what follows when one is placed on a MAT treatment program.

Increased Treatment Success Rate

The likelihood of treating substance use disorder is high with MAT treatment. Sometimes, the treatment plan can last years to allow more time for recovery.

Decreased Likelihood of Relapses

Of all people placed in a MAT treatment program for specific research, a good number of them reported abstinence from the drugs after different periods.5 This further proves that MAT treatment works effectively in reducing relapse rate.

Increase the Patient’s Chances of Survival 

MAT medications and therapy work so that patients can stay longer in treatment, increasing their chances of survival.

Reducing the Risk of HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C and HIV are blood-borne diseases primarily transmitted through injection drug use. MAT is thought to reduce injection frequency, lessening the risk of contracting such diseases.6

Increased Ability of Patients to Retain Jobs and Enjoy a Social Life

Patients on MAT treatment programs can better manage their jobs as the treatment helps them get back to carrying out their daily activities and interactions with more ease.

Types of MAT Medications

The various medications used in MAT treatment are given below:  

  • Methadone: The FDA approved this medication for drug abuse, mainly for opioid use disorder. It works as a long-acting agonist that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone MAT treatment tricks the brain into thinking it is still taking the harmful opioid.
  • Buprenorphine: Approved by the FDA, buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist that works much like methadone. Though, it produces weaker effects compared to a full agonist like methadone. 
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a non-opioid used for alcohol addiction treatment and opioid abuse treatment. The FDA approves it, and it works by blocking the sedative and euphoric effects of opioids. 
  • Naloxone (Narcan): Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used in MAT treatment to reverse opioid overdose effectively. 
  • Acamprosate:  Acamprosate is a medication for alcoholism for people in recovery. In alcohol addiction treatment, acamprosate does not prevent withdrawal symptoms. It just works to prevent relapse for people in recovery.

Acamprosate is usually used in conjunction with disulfiram in medication-assisted treatment for alcohol.  

MAT Treatment

Common Misconceptions of MAT Treatment

Here are nine misconceptions you may hear from misinformed people about MAT treatment:

MAT is Trading One Addiction for Another

Some claim that taking a drug like methadone daily automatically indicates you are addicted to it. MAT medication helps those trying to stop using substances of abuse by maintaining the mental and emotional stability needed for other areas of recovery.  

MAT is Only for Short-Term Treatment

MAT treatment can be used for however long the patient needs to recover fully. Some people may require more extended periods to recover, and MAT treatment is flexible enough for any duration.

My Addiction Does Not Warrant MAT Treatment 

Opioid use disorder is classified as mild, moderate, or severe in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). However, all levels of addiction require treatment. Therefore, however mild your addiction is, you must start treatment. A quick search on Google for “MAT treatment near me” will show results of several centers offering both outpatient and inpatient MAT treatment.

MAT is Harmful

The National Institute of Health (NIH) looked at data from more than 17,500 persons in Massachusetts who had survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014. Deaths from overdose were reduced by 38% in individuals taking buprenorphine and 59% in those getting methadone compared to those who did not receive any MAT. In summary, MAT is far from being harmful when administered right.  

MAT is Worse Than Abstinence 

It is false to promote abstinence as better or more effective than MAT. Even the FDA enormously facilitates the research and development of new MAT drugs because MAT is so much more effective.

Most Insurance Does Not Cover MAT Treatment

The Affordable Care Act made it mandatory for most insurers to cover addiction treatment. In many cases, medication-assisted treatment is included. Depending on your plan, your insurance may cover a part or all the cost.

Cold Turkey is Better Than MAT

Going cold turkey cannot combat withdrawal symptoms that can be excruciating, nor can it reduce cravings. Therefore, this claim is null.  

Pregnant Women Cannot Receive MAT

MAT treatment improves birth outcomes among women with substance use disorder. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) approves MAT as the recommended treatment for pregnant women with opioid use disorder. Even breastfeeding, it has been certified safe to continue MAT medications like methadone and buprenorphine.