How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work

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How does medication assisted treatment work? Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive approach to treating substance abuse that combines medication with behavioral therapy and support groups. It is primarily used for individuals struggling with opioid addiction, but can also be used for alcohol and other substance use disorders.

MAT works by addressing the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Here are three ways it helps individuals on the path to recovery:

  1. Reduces Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms: MAT medications work by binding to the same receptors in the brain as opioids, reducing the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Blocks the Effects of Opioids: Some MAT medications, such as naltrexone, block the effects of opioids in the brain, making it less appealing to use them.
  3. Helps with Relapse Prevention: By reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, MAT medications can help prevent relapse and increase the chances of sustained recovery.

Common medications used in MAT include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications can be taken in various forms, including tablets, injections, or implants.

Studies have shown that MAT can be highly effective in treating opioid addiction. MAT has been linked to decreased rates of opioid use, overdose, and criminal activity. However, like any medication, there are potential risks and side effects associated with MAT, including nausea, dizziness, and sleep disturbances.

In addition to medication, MAT also involves other components such as behavioral therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes. These components work together to address the root causes of addiction and promote long-term recovery.

The duration of MAT varies from person to person, but it is generally recommended to continue medication for at least a year. Some individuals may need to stay on medication for longer, and others may be able to wean off sooner.

MAT is beneficial for anyone struggling with opioid addiction, especially those who have not had success with other treatments or have a high risk of relapse. It can also be helpful for individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if MAT is the right option for you.
how does medication assisted treatment work

Key Takeaways:


  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) works by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, blocking the effects of opioids, and helping with relapse prevention.
  • Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are commonly used medications in MAT.
  • MAT can be highly effective in treating opioid addiction, but it is important to understand potential risks and side effects. It also includes other components such as behavioral therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes.


What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment ?

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)? It is a comprehensive approach for treating substance use disorders, combining behavioral therapy and medications to address withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and support recovery. MAT has been proven to be effective for opioid and alcohol use disorders, enhancing treatment outcomes and reducing the risk of relapse.

How Does MAT Work?

Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive approach to treating opioid use disorder. It combines medication, such as methadone or buprenorphine, with behavioral therapy and support services. But how exactly does MAT work? In this section, we will break down the mechanisms behind MAT and its effectiveness in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. We will also discuss how it can block the effects of opioids and aid in relapse prevention. Understanding the inner workings of MAT can help individuals struggling with opioid addiction make an informed decision about their treatment options.

1. Reduces Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Consult a healthcare professional to evaluate the severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms and determine the best course of action.
  • Develop a personalized treatment plan that includes medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments to effectively reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Attend regular follow-up appointments to track progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Pro-tip: Incorporate daily mindfulness practices to complement the medication-assisted treatment for even better results.

2. Blocks the Effects of Opioids

  • Prevents other opioids from binding and creating a euphoric effect by attaching to the same receptors in the brain, thus blocking the effects of opioids.
  • This action helps reduce cravings and dependence on opioids, providing support for individuals in their journey to recovery.

In the early 20th century, scientists discovered the potential of opioid antagonists in blocking the effects of opioids, leading to the development of medications like naloxone and naltrexone for treating opioid addiction.

3. Helps with Relapse Prevention

  • Identify Triggers: Recognize and avoid situations or people that may trigger a relapse, helping to prevent it from occurring.
  • Develop Coping Strategies: Learn and practice coping mechanisms to manage stress and cravings, effectively preventing a relapse.
  • Build Support Network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups to aid in relapse prevention.

Pro-tip: Engage in regular physical activity and hobbies to reduce stress and stay focused on recovery, which can be beneficial in preventing relapse.

What Medications Are Used in MAT?

A key component of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of specialized medications to help individuals with opioid use disorder manage their cravings and withdrawal symptoms. There are three main medications used in MAT: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Each medication has its own unique properties and benefits, which we will explore in this section. By understanding how these medications work, we can gain a better understanding of how MAT can effectively help individuals on their path to recovery.

1. Methadone

  • Methadone is a synthetic opioid commonly used to treat opioid dependence.
  • Prior to starting methadone treatment, patients undergo a thorough assessment to determine if it is the appropriate course of action.
  • Doctors will prescribe an initial dosage and closely monitor patients during the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Based on the individual’s response and any potential withdrawal symptoms, adjustments to the dosage may be made.
  • In addition to methadone treatment, regular counseling and medical supervision are recommended for optimal outcomes.

If you are considering methadone treatment, it is important to discuss all options with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

2. Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a medication used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to assist with recovery from opioid addiction. It functions by alleviating withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while also blocking the effects of other opioids. This drug is highly effective in reducing the likelihood of relapse and can be a crucial component of a comprehensive treatment plan.

For those facing opioid dependence, buprenorphine provides a hopeful path to recovery when paired with behavioral therapy and support groups, promoting overall well-being.

3. Naltrexone

  • Naltrexone is a medication used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to aid individuals in their recovery from opioid or alcohol addiction.
  • It functions by blocking the effects of opioids, reducing cravings, and preventing relapse.
  • Naltrexone is offered in both pill form and as a monthly injection, providing patients with flexibility in their treatment options.
  • Individuals considering Naltrexone should seek advice from healthcare professionals to determine its suitability based on their medical history and treatment needs.

Is MAT Effective?

Yes, MAT, or Medication-Assisted Treatment, has proven to be highly effective in managing substance use disorders. Extensive research has shown that MAT significantly decreases the chances of relapse, increases participation in treatment programs, and supports long-term recovery. When combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone have demonstrated positive results in treating opioid and alcohol use disorders.

What Are the Success Rates of MAT?

The success rates of MAT, or medication-assisted treatment, vary depending on the specific medication prescribed and the individual’s commitment to the program. However, studies have shown that MAT can be highly effective in reducing opioid use, decreasing overdose deaths, and improving treatment retention rates.

For example, research has demonstrated that buprenorphine treatment can lead to a 50% decrease in overdose mortality. Additionally, MAT has been linked to a significant 75% reduction in illicit opioid use among participants.

Are There Any Potential Risks or Side Effects?

Yes, there are potential risks and side effects associated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of overdose if opioids are used during treatment

While these risks exist, it’s important to also consider the benefits of MAT. It’s important to discuss the pros and cons with a healthcare professional before making a decision.

Sarah, a 32-year-old recovering opioid addict, experienced mild nausea and anxiety when she started MAT. With the guidance of her doctor, these side effects were managed, and she successfully completed the treatment, leading a healthy, drug-free life.

What Other Components Are Included in MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive approach to treating substance use disorder. Along with medication, there are other important components that are included in MAT to help individuals achieve long-term recovery. In this section, we will explore the different components of MAT, including behavioral therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in the success of MAT and the overall well-being of the individual seeking treatment.

1. Behavioral Therapy

  • Assessment: Identify behavioral patterns and triggers.
  • Goal Setting: Collaborate to set achievable goals.
  • Therapy Sessions: Regular counseling meetings to address underlying issues and incorporate behavioral therapy techniques.
  • Skill Building: Learn coping strategies and stress management techniques through behavioral therapy.
  • Support Systems: Foster a supportive environment through family involvement or support groups.

Considering integrating behavioral therapy into MAT can significantly enhance recovery outcomes, providing individuals with comprehensive support for sustained sobriety and addressing underlying behavioral issues.

2. Support Groups

  • Find local support groups focused on addiction recovery.
  • Attend meetings regularly to build a supportive network.
  • Engage actively in discussions and share experiences with other members of the support group.

Pro-tip: If attending physical meetings is challenging, look for virtual support groups instead.

3. Lifestyle Changes

  • Implementing lifestyle changes, such as developing a consistent exercise routine, to improve physical health and mental well-being.
  • Incorporating a balanced diet to support overall health and aid in the recovery process.
  • Establishing healthy sleep patterns to promote better sleep quality and overall wellness.
  • Engaging in stress-reducing activities, like mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, to effectively manage stress levels.

How Long Does MAT Last?

  • Indefinite Duration: MAT can last for an indefinite amount of time, especially for individuals managing chronic conditions like opioid use disorder.
  • Personalized Plan: The duration of MAT varies per individual and is determined based on their response to treatment, recovery progress, and medical needs.
  • Medical Supervision: The duration of MAT is continually evaluated and adjusted under medical supervision to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.

Fact: The duration of MAT is individualized and can range from months to years, providing support for sustained recovery.

Who Can Benefit from MAT?

Individuals suffering from opioid use disorder, chronic pain, or substance abuse can benefit from MAT. MAT can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and promote long-term recovery for those struggling with these issues. Additionally, pregnant women with opioid use disorder can also benefit from MAT, as it can ensure the health of both the mother and the fetus.

MAT in Different Settings

MAT can be utilized in various settings, such as outpatient clinics, residential treatment facilities, and correctional institutions. In outpatient clinics, primary care providers can prescribe and monitor medication. In residential treatment facilities, MAT is integrated into comprehensive treatment programs for round-the-clock care. In correctional institutions, MAT is offered to individuals with substance use disorders in jails or prisons.

Fun fact: MAT is not only effective, but also cost-effective, with benefits including reduced illicit opioid use and criminal activity.

How to Get Started with MAT

  1. Consult with a healthcare provider who specializes in addiction treatment to determine if MAT is appropriate for your specific condition.
  2. Educate yourself about the available medications, their benefits, and potential side effects.
  3. Collaborate with your healthcare provider to create a personalized treatment plan that includes medication, counseling, and support services.
  4. Attend regular medical appointments and therapy sessions to track progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan if necessary.
  5. Participate in a supportive environment with peers and professionals to aid in the recovery process.

When starting MAT, keep in mind that commitment to the treatment plan and open communication with your healthcare provider are crucial for a successful recovery journey.


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a successful approach to treating substance use disorders by combining behavioral therapy and medications. These medications work to restore brain chemistry, block the pleasurable effects of alcohol and opioids, alleviate physical cravings, and regulate bodily functions. This proven method has been shown to reduce the likelihood of relapse and improve the survival of patients struggling with addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does medication assisted treatment work?

Medication assisted treatment (MAT) combines FDA-approved medications with counseling and other therapeutic techniques to provide a whole-patient approach to treating opioid use disorder (OUD). These medications work by targeting specific opioid receptors in the brain, helping to normalize brain chemistry and reduce the euphoric effects of opioids. This can help patients sustain recovery and manage physiological cravings without experiencing life-threatening opioid overdose.

What are the FDA-approved medications used in MAT?

There are currently three FDA-approved medications for treating OUD: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine are considered maintenance medications and are taken daily to help patients manage their opioid use disorder. Naltrexone is a non-opioid medication that blocks the effects of opioids and is typically used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

How do these medications help with OUD?

These medications work by targeting the same opioid receptors in the brain that are affected by opioids. By doing so, they can help to normalize body functions and reduce the psychological cravings associated with OUD. This can help individuals successfully treat their addiction and eventually discontinue use of opioids.

What are some common barriers to accessing MAT?

Some common barriers include lack of knowledge or understanding about MAT, limited access to MAT providers, and stigma surrounding medication use for addiction treatment. Additionally, certain health conditions or co-occurring disorders may impact a person’s eligibility for MAT. However, resources such as the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) and the Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS) offer information and support for healthcare professionals looking to implement MAT.

What are some of the benefits of using MAT?

Research shows that MAT can improve patient survival, increase retention in treatment, decrease illicit drug use and criminal activity, and improve employment and birth outcomes. It can also lower the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C. In addition, MAT can help individuals with OUD lead a self-directed life and sustain recovery.

Is MAT effective for other substance use disorders?

While MAT is primarily used for opioid use disorder, there are also medications that have been approved for treating alcohol use disorder (MAUD). These include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone, and are most effective when used alongside a comprehensive treatment program. MAT may also be used for other substance use disorders, but the evidence for its effectiveness varies. It is important for individuals to discuss their treatment options with a healthcare professional.

Medically Reviewed By

Thomas Walker
Learn about Thomas Walker

Dr. Thomas Walker, a seasoned Addiction Treatment Specialist and Psychiatrist, has dedicated his life to providing compassionate care to the Charleston community. Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina.

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