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Medication Assisted Treatment

What Is MAT?

Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a "whole-patient" approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Why should I use medication for my addiction?

FDA has approved several different medications to treat opioid addiction and alcohol dependence.

A common misconception associated with MAT is that it substitutes one drug for another. Instead, these medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body. MAT programs provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of an abused opioid. And research has shown that when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s intelligence, mental capability, physical functioning, or employability. Medications used in MAT for opioid treatment can only be dispensed through a SAMHSA-certified OTP. Some of the medications used in MAT are controlled substances due to their potential for misuse. Research has shown that patients who maintain treatment with medications have a lower rate of relapse.

How long do I continue treatment?

Treatment decisions are individualized plans of care that are discussed during appointments. Buprenorphine and naltrexone are used to treat opioid dependence and addiction to short-acting opioids such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. People may safely take medications used in MAT for months, years, several years, or even a lifetime. Patients can choose to taper or to indefinitely continue maintenance medication. Studies have show lower relapse with continuing maintenance however.

How are these medications different from drugs?

Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, Subutex, and Sublocade, is a partial opioid agonist/antagonist. This means it affects the same receptors as heroin, hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone causing pain control, euphoria, constipation. However, it only partially has that affect, as it has a limit or ceiling associated with it. Higher dosages do not have this affect. While overdose of these drugs can cause respiratory depression, or slowing your breathing, buprenorphine has a theoretical ceiling whereby these effects do not increase. It also blocks other similar medications from being able to cause these effects. As such, the risk of overdose is much lower. This built in safety mechanism allows for safer treatment.

Naltrexone is the opposite of these medications. It blocks the same receptors without causing the effects that illicit drugs do. It thereby limits the effects of any drugs ingested and may reduce the cravings for the drugs that would stimulate these receptors.