If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, especially to alcohol and drugs such as opioids, you have probably been researching various resources to find the right rehab facility throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. 

Luckily, there are various treatment methods available to help those with drug addiction recover, especially one in particular, called medication-assisted treatment (MAT).   

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 48.5 million Americans have used illicit drugs or have abused them. From 1999 to 2018, approximately 72,000 people died from overdosing on prescription painkillers known as opioids.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

The United States is still facing the need to address this opioid epidemic, which has plagued the country since the early 1990s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), reports, that every day more than 130 American people die due to overdose from the common prescription painkillers, including, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), heroin, and morphine. 

Medical professionals along with addiction specialists realized that more needed to be done in terms of facilitating treatment options to efficiently address opioid use disorders (OUD) as a chronic disease that causes long-lasting and damaging effects. Therefore, there has been an ongoing effort to combat this opioid epidemic. 

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)? 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a method used to help those who grapple with substance abuse recover and become sober. For individuals with alcoholism and opioid addiction, MAT is the utilization of  FDA-approved medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies. 

Medication-assisted is an unconventional treatment that is an addition to traditional addiction rehab. MAT helps to manage dependence and addiction is a more holistic manner, meaning it focuses on every aspect of a person as a whole, both physical and psychological. 

As mental health is a major contributing risk factor and reasoning behind an individual’s addiction, Medication-assisted treatment aims to not only treat substance abuse but deal with the issues and stigma associated with drug misuse.  

Various studies and other evidence-based research has proven that the use of medications in conjunction with therapies has effectively treated opioid use disorders (OUD), and helped some people maintain recovery and become sober long-term.  

Treatment methods to address drug and alcohol abuse, such as medical-assisted treatment,  have truly improved the accuracy of diagnosis and management of chronic disease, thanks to competent specialists, and most importantly, the perpetual evolution and advancement of technology. 

Components of Medication-Assisted Treatment 

As mentioned above, there are two major components of MAT programs. Medication and counseling/behavioral therapies. Below is a breakdown of what medications and types of therapies are used during medication-assisted treatment. 

Medications Used During MAT

Both opioids and alcohol are two of the most abused addictive substances, which cause physical dependence and addiction. After stopping the use of a substance such as opioids, withdrawal symptoms occur as a result, which also increases a person’s chance of relapse.

While there are three main FDA-approved medications used during medication-assisted treatment for reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms during detox, MAT also is used for other reasons.

The medications used during MAT are used for various reasons. The story behind why a person became addicted to drugs and alcohol is based on a variety of factors, such as family history/genetics, mental health, bad environments, etc. 

Therefore, treatments such as this one will vary depending on the person and their needs. The medications used during medication-assisted treatment include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Everyone is highly-monitored in a safe and medically-professional environment. 

Three main medications are used during medication-assisted treatment, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These include: 

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine goes by its other names of Suboxone and Subutex. It is used to treat opioid addiction and dependence. Buprenorphine provides relief from withdrawal symptoms. It is not an opioid inhibitor but binds to opioid receptors in the brain.

Unlike other types of opioids, this drug used during MAT does not produce euphoric side effects that often lead to drug dependency. It replaces the other opioids as a less stronger version with fewer side effects. It satisfies someone’s cravings, but in a way where they can use it until their body doesn’t need it to function, and they will be able to wean off of it. 

Methadone 

Methadone is a medication that has been popularly used during MAT for years to help manage and treat opioid addiction and dependence. This drug is defined as an opioid agonist, which means it initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor. 

Methadone changes the way a person’s brain and body reacts and responds to pain. It is called an extended-relief medication, producing similar effects to other opioids, but on a milder scale. Most importantly, it reduces cravings and other unpleasant symptoms that often occur during withdrawal. 

As it is extended-release, the drug is released throughout the body slowly over time, which means one does may help cravings for up to a day-and-a-half, and produce fewer side-effects. For those with severe addictions, any relief, especially during withdrawal is magic. 

Naltrexone

Unlike buprenorphine and methadone being opioid agonists, which evoke some sort of reaction, the last drug used during MAT is called naltrexone is the opposite. Naltrexone is defined as an opioid antagonist, which means that it is a blocker. The job of this medication is to block the effects of opioids when they attach to opioid receptor sites within the brain. 

Naltrexone can reverse or stop the effects of an overdose before it can cause fatal consequences, such as heart attack, stroke, coma, and the worst, death. Most importantly, naltrexone is known as the overdose reversal drug. 

During MAT programs this drug is used to mainly prevent overdoses for those who have relapsed, and in emergencies. Once a person does not require to be in a MAT program, they can request to have injections of naloxone nearby, just in case of an emergency. 

Some buprenorphine medications also contain naloxone, which makes it an effective medication used for treating opioid addiction. Buprenorphine and methadone satisfy the body’s need for relief from withdrawal symptoms, while naloxone blocks the effects of opioids, preventing the chance of overdose after relapse. 

Addiction Therapy Services Used During MAT

In addition to medication, Medication-assisted treatment programs most importantly, utilize addiction treatment services, in addition, to therapy and counseling as the main component. Traditional and alternative therapies in comprehensive treatment approaches such as this are chosen according to the individual and their needs. The main types of therapy that are commonly employed during a medication-assisted treatment program include the following: 

Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

This type of therapy was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) but later used to help teach people suffering from addiction new skills and resources to help manage and cope with pain, emotions, and decrease conflict, especially in relationships. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is defined as a goal-oriented therapy method, which focuses on creating a practical approach to problem-solving. During a MAT program, people who are suffering from addiction receive CBT, which helps them change their patterns of thinking, and in return, it helps modify their bad habits and behavior, allowing them to better cope with their issues and difficulties, as they now can view situations from a new perspective. 

Other methods of therapy used during medication-assisted treatment include: 

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Trauma therapy 
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Mindfulness and stress management
  • Aftercare support 
  • Relapse prevention

What To Expect In A Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

Detoxification

Medication-assisted treatment programs help individuals with addiction remain abstinent from using drugs or alcohol throughout recovery before and after. For severe addictions, a medically supervised detox program helps people rid their body of the substances and prepare for their initial treatment in inpatient or outpatient rehab to officially begin. 

The first step when entering a rehab facility, and before official treatment can begin is called detoxification or medication-assisted treatment. During this comprehensive process, the toxic substances (drugs and alcohol) are being removed from the body in an unconventional but safe and professional manner. During detox, the body goes into shock, as it is used to the brain being dependant on these drugs. 

As a reaction to the drugs being weaned out and not being in the system, the brain tells the body that something is disrupting the reward region of the brain responsible for producing euphoria and pleasure. 

Since the body no longer is being fed prescription painkillers, a person’s body goes into withdrawal and produces unpleasant mental and physical symptoms, such as cravings, seizures, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sweating, nausea/vomiting, chills, diarrhea, etc.  

The characteristics of withdrawal depend on what drug is being discontinued. Experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms can make it difficult for a person to focus properly on healing and recovery, often increasing the chance of relapse, which is very common.

Benefits of A Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

Medication-assisted treatment always involves a combination of both medications and therapeutic interventions. Comprehensive treatment plans are designed to always serve individuals with recovery needs and goals. Specifically targeting those with opioid and alcohol addictions, MAT programs are beneficial for the following reasons: 

  • MAT programs are designed to assist people, both men, and women, hone in their focus on healing and recovering, without being hindered by unwanted distractions, overpowering cravings, and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Help those addicted to prescription painkillers (opiates) try to understand what factors contributed to them abusing drugs. MAT helps people get to the root of addiction and identifies underlying risk factors and mental health conditions that may be feeding the addiction and aim to treat them simultaneously. 
  • It helps people find beneficial resources they need to develop life/coping skills and confidence needed to maintain recovery and become sober. They are taught how to deal with conflicts and how to make necessary better decisions. 
  • MAT programs help reduce the risk of relapse 
  • Gives people suffering from substance abuse the support system they need outside of their family and friends

Medication-Assisted Treatment Program At LA Detox

At LA Detox in Los Angeles, California, our medication-assisted program is a comprehensive treatment plan designed with methods of treatment such as medication and therapy, tailored to a person’s needs. 

During the intake process, our clients are evaluated very thoroughly, including medical and psychological history. 

Based on this evaluation, our clients then work hand-in-hand with our counselors, addiction specialists, and other medical professionals to assess and determine which treatment facility type would be best (inpatient, outpatient), length of treatment, and what types of support groups, therapies, or medications would be best. 

Our Main Goal

The main goal of our medication-assisted treatment program is for our clients to achieve and maintain sobriety. We assist our clients in learning how to make the necessary changes in their lifestyle that will allow them to have an optimal recovery, and achieve their goals. 

Our services are geared to help individuals create and sustain productive and meaningful lifestyles, by modifying their behaviors and way of thinking, to help them become free of addiction and substance abuse. 

In our programs, by utilizing traditional and alternative therapies and treatment components we have helped to ease withdrawal symptoms, but, most importantly, have decreased the number of relapses. Thus, this has increased and afforded our client’s best chance at lasting sobriety.   

Are You A Candidate For Medication-Assisted Treatment? 

The reasons for one’s addiction are endless. Everyone has different needs and addiction severity levels, and therefore, treatment methods and how they are utilized will vary for every person. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid use disorder or alcoholism, you may be a candidate for MAT. If you require a method that not only helps people quit drugs and alcohol, teaches how to manage and cope with your condition, and lastly, prevents relapse, medication-assisted treatment may be what you have been searching for to achieve the healthy and sober lifestyle you have always wanted. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment And Mental Health

In addition to helping treat addiction to drugs and alcohol, MAT also helps to identify and address other possible health conditions that may arise, called pre-existing conditions such as mental health. When addiction and mental disorders occur simultaneously, this is called dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. 

Medication-assisted treatment can help identify mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc., that were left undetected or undiagnosed. Mental health plays a huge role in someone’s addictive behavior. 

People with clinical depression for example, often turn to drugs and alcohol as means to cope with how they are feeling, as they believe that drugs or drink will numb the pain of their symptoms and erase their thoughts. Truth is, doing so only makes things worse and causes major complications. 

If you were diagnosed with addiction and mental illness, help is available through proper medication management and therapy within a medication-assisted treatment program. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment At LA Detox Will Help You Recover

Our approach at LA Detox is based on the philosophy and belief that substance use disorders (SUDs) and co-occurring disorders are conditions that are extremely challenging to diagnose and manage without the right forms of treatment and professional help. 

Mental health and addiction often cause and create various difficulties and challenges in the lives of not only the affected individual, but with their families as well. We offer family therapy to help families rekindle their relationships after being torn apart by addiction. 

Due to the complexity of the chronic disease of addiction and mental illness, we highly believe in this integration of MAT as it has been proven to be one of the most widely accepted and safe evidence-based methods of treatment, that has been able to help our patients on their continuum of care. 

We are proud to utilize one of the most effective and life-changing forms of care. Our highly-specialized team continues to save and change the lives of millions of people, by helping them overcome the power of addiction, and manage their mental illness long-term, allowing them to live the lives that they deserve. 

To learn more about medication-assisted treatment, and how it can help save your life, or someone you know, contact us at LA Detox today! 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat

https://www.smartrecovery.org/what-is-medication-assisted-treatment-mat/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis