The use of medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorder and prevent opioid overdose is referred to as medication-assisted treatment (or MAT).
MAT brings a “whole-patient” approach to treatment, and research has shown that it can be effective. This approach has been shown to:
- Improve patient survival
- Increase retention in treatment
- Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
Medication FDA approved for use during MAT include:
Methadone – this prescription (offered in pill, liquid and wafer forms and usually taken once a day). According to SAMHSA it changes “how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It lessens the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal and blocks the euphoric effects of opiate drugs..”
Buprenorphine – as an opioid partial agonist, this drug produces that same euphoric effects as opioids but is weaker than heroin and methadone. “Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate doses they level off, even with further dose increases. This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of misuse, dependency, and side effects.”
Naltrexone – this drug works differently than methadone and buprenorphine because it blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and reduces cravings. If a person relapses, naltrexone stops him or her from getting high.
Learn more about MAT on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
How Do Medications Treat Opioid Addiction (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)