Spectrum Health Systems

Inside Look: What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Published On: February 5th, 2018Categories: Treatment & Recovery

In our Inside Look series, we’re taking you behind the curtain of each of Spectrum Health Systems’ services to prepare you for your journey to sobriety. If you haven’t already, go back and check out our posts on outpatient treatment, inpatient detoxification, clinical stabilization and residential treatment.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and like many diseases, there is medication available to treat it. For addiction, these options are known as “Medication-Assisted Treatment” or “MAT” for short. Stigma frequently arises for people enrolled in MAT programs due to misinformation and common misperceptions in the public, so we wanted to shine a light on what it is all about.

Throughout the continuum of care offered at Spectrum Health Systems – including Spectrum’s private pay, inpatient treatment center The New England Recovery Center – our job is to treat everyone who suffers from opioid and other drug and alcohol addictions with state-of-the-art, evidence-based practices. For many people, MAT is the best option.

MAT is a treatment protocol for addiction that includes the use of medication alongside counseling and other support. Treatment that includes medication is the best choice for opioid addiction because it enables clients to focus on making necessary lifestyle changes and addressing personal issues, free from drug cravings. There are three standard medications used in MAT programs: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

Methadone and buprenorphine are used to help decrease physical withdrawal symptoms, decrease cravings, prevent intoxication and overdoses, and improve engagement and retention in other substance use disorder treatment. Naltrexone helps overcome addiction in a different way by blocking the effect of opioid drugs and alcohol.

It is important to understand that, contrary to popular belief, the medications used to treat an opioid addiction do not give a person a high when dosed appropriately. Also, the practice is not a simple substitution of one drug for another. MAT curbs cravings for harmful substances and allows clients to regain a normal state-of-mind and lead normal lives. It’s essential that a person in recovery be able to focus on their new lifestyle and make the changes necessary to sustain their recovery – such as repairing relationships with loved ones and maintaining a job. The goal of MAT is not to create a new addiction, but rather to help people manage their existing addiction so that the benefits of recovery can be maintained.

Naltrexone is administered either in pill form or by a monthly injection. Methadone is dispensed in a wafer or liquid form. Buprenorphine is available in a pill or strip form, both of which are placed under the tongue for administration. Methadone and buprenorphine are taken daily. Over the course of time, clients may have their dosage reduced and gradually be weaned off altogether. Spectrum encourages clients to stay involved in MAT and counseling for at least one year, and then work with their clinician to see if it’s time to start lowering the dosage.

At each of our 13 outpatient treatment facilities across Massachusetts, we provide medication-assisted treatment to thousands of clients per day. In addition, each client in one of our MAT programs is required to attend group and individual therapy. While we treat their addictions, we’re also committed to giving them the coping skills needed to maintain recovery by identifying and working through their own personal triggers. Each client works with a multidisciplinary treatment team, including physicians and nurses, so no one has to take this journey alone.

At Spectrum Health Systems, we want to help everyone who is struggling with addiction find the best treatment option to fit their needs. If you or a loved one needs help for an addiction, stop by or reach out to us today at (800) 464-9555. More information on medication-assisted treatment is available here.

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