Medication-Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a very effective way of treating substance abuse. Medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse involves a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. MAT is very effective in treating cases of opioid and alcohol abuse. 

Many people might be worried that medications may just lead to more addiction. However, this is not the case, as MAT can be a great option for treating substance abuse addiction. Evidence-based therapy and medication can both be great choices for recovery down the line. 

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Completing detox and substance abuse treatment is an amazing event but staying clean is a whole other battle. Some addicts may slip into old habits. Cravings and other mental issues can end up leading to relapse later on if left untreated. 

Medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse combines both effective therapy and medication along the way. Together, these two elements can decrease cravings and help maintain sobriety in the long term. With a personalized set of medication and therapy, MAT can be a great choice for a cleaner and healthier life. 

The Dangers of Opioids and other Substances

Opioids (also known as narcotics) are a common type of drug to relieve pain. Opioids include pain relievers, oxycodone, fentanyl, tramadol, and heroin just to name a few. These substances are some of the most abused drugs and typically lead to addiction and in some cases, death. 

In the past few years, the number of opioid overdose deaths has risen to shocking numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 67,000 people die from drug overdoses every year. While the number continues to change every year, the numbers are still scarily high. 

Opioids are dangerous because of their addictive nature and the dependency that forms within the user. Over the years it had been tough to treat cases of Opioid addiction effectively. However, with the introduction of medication-assisted treatment in recent years, millions of addicts have been able to recover. If you are concerned that a loved one might be struggling with substance abuse or opioid addiction, Behavioral Health Centers may be able to help. 

Medications Used During MAT

There are a variety of different prescribed medications used to treat Opioids and alcohol. These medications are very effective when combined with personalized therapy. Medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse will be a different experience depending on the person. 

Commonly used medications during MAT include (more info on each below):

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Naloxone


Methadone is a commonly used medication that relieves some of the withdrawal symptoms of painkillers and heroin. It is able to avoid cravings while treating some of the intense withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse. 

Methadone is a full opioid antagonist. A full opioid antagonist is a drug that has similar effects to other opioids. It acts as an opioid but with much milder effects. Methadone doesn’t affect how a person functions throughout the day. 

It is worth noting that while methadone does relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms, it doesn’t remove all of them (particularly the more uncomfortable ones). With most medications there are some side effects, these include:

  • Sweating
  • Stomach pains
  • Loss in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Mood swings


Buprenorphine is considered a partial opioid antagonist and is specific to opioid addiction. It also works to treat cases of heroin and prescription painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin, etc.). Buprenorphine can be prescribed and accessed from a local doctor’s office. 

With all medications used during MAT, Buprenorphine should be used with other treatment options. You should not use Buprenorphine alone, rather in combination with therapy and other recovery options. When used alone, Buprenorphine can lead to abuse and prescription diversion. 

Side effects of Buprenorphine include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Sleeping trouble
  • Irritability


Naltrexone is a medication used to treat cases of alcohol and opioid addiction. Uniquely, Naltrexone is injectable but can also be taken as a pill. Naltrexone is injected intramuscularly and only needs monthly doses. 

Naltrexone works to remove the euphoria or ‘high’ a person gets from opioids. It does this by shutting off some of these opioid receptors in the brain. This completely removes the pleasure involved with taking opioids and reduces motivation and reason to use.

One of the risks involved with using Naltrexone is the decreased tolerance of opioids. This makes relapsing much more dangerous – a highly increased chance of overdose or fatal respiratory depression. 

Side effects of Naltrexone include:

  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Muscle paintings
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches


Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that’s used to battle the effects of an opioid overdose. This medication can be used in cases of morphine or heroin overdose (among others). Naloxone attempts to counter life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. This allows the person to breathe normally.

Naloxone works only if the person has opioids in their system, otherwise, it has no effect. It can be injected or taken in its pill form. This medication can save a person’s life at a moment’s notice. This drug also has no potential for abuse either. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment Myths

Due to its new status in the field and some false myths, many people have their doubts about medication-assisted treatment. We’re here to dispel some of these myths and help you better understand MAT and the huge benefits it can have on opioid or alcohol addiction. 

MAT Does not Trade One Addiction for Another

One popular belief is that MAT will simply trade one addiction for another. MAT covers both the biological and behavioral elements of addiction treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is a proven form of treatment and continues to be very effective with cases of opioid addiction. 

MAT is not only for Short Term Treatment

Many people believe that MAT is only for short term treatment, but it is quite the opposite. Research says that those who stay on MAT for 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long term sobriety.  

MAT Does Not Increase Risk of Overdose

On the contrary, MAT actually prevents overdose from ever happening. Relapsing can be especially dangerous when dealing with opioids, but MAT is a good way of avoiding this overall. 

How Long Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Last?

The length of medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse depends on the person. Some people may spend a certain amount of years on MAT, while others might last a lifetime. An individual plan is usually set by a medical expert and will vary between people. 

Behavioral Health Centers will be by your side the whole way to make sure you are comfortable and safe. We’ll make sure you have a personalized and transparent plan for the future. MAT can be a very effective way of dealing with Opioid and alcohol abuse cases. Find out if MAT is right for you.

Treatment Options Available for Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are a number of highly effective therapy options for MAT. Some might work better than others and at Behavioral Health, we’ll be by your side to find what works best for you. By combining therapy with medication assistance, a person is able to get well-rounded treatment and long term sobriety. 

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy typically includes sessions with a trained medical therapist. This is a chance to talk to a therapist about cravings, urges, feelings, and anything else. Behavioral therapy is one of the main parts of MAT. 

Behavioral therapy stems from a number of more specific therapy options. The goal is to identify these addictive behaviors and try to change them. During MAT, behavioral therapy is a great choice for understanding and tackles issues with addiction and mental issues during and after recovery. 

Group Therapy

Support groups and group therapy are also very effective during MAT. Group therapy allows an open and safe environment to open up to others. Group therapy also allows you to hear others in the same situation as you. These sessions are usually monitored by one of our passionate therapists. 

It can be very therapeutic to open up to others while knowing that you are not alone. Group therapy is an excellent option when paired with medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse (especially opioids). 

Good Candidates for MAT

There are a few factors that should be met before enrolling in medication-assisted treatment. It is important to be aware of the other options before committing. While MAT is a very effective option for some, it might not be best for everyone. 

Good candidates for MAT have the following conditions:

  • A solid understanding of alternate treatment options
  • Compliance to prescription instructions
  • An official diagnosis of Opioid or alcohol addiction
  • No physical health issues that’ll cause negative health complications

Get Help Today with MAT

Medication-assisted treatment is an excellent option for long-term recovery. The Behavioral Health Centers offers safe and effective medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse.  

Find out if Medication-assisted treatment is right for you, contact us or visit our website for more info.