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Integrating Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) into Traditional Recovery Settings

Have you ever known someone who sent a loved one or their child to multiple rehab facilities, only to later hear that the individual overdosed and died, despite the efforts of their family and multiple attempts in treatment? And, if that’s the case, how would you feel as a mother, father, brother, sister, husband, or wife to find out after the fact that they had never been provided a treatment option known to save lives – medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

In the addiction treatment community, there has been a controversial debate regarding the best way to incorporate MAT into traditional “recovery” settings.Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) into traditional addiction recovery settings. Although evidence has now proven the effectiveness of MAT and many treatment centers have provided MAT as an effective treatment option, there is still room for improvement in the delivery of care and for wrap around services after care in the traditional treatment setting has ended.

Many treatment centers focus on a traditional 12-step process known to many as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs usually include a complete abstinence based approach. The problem with this approach is that it does not take into account the manner in which addiction changes the brain. For some individuals, these changes can result in intense cravings and preoccupation with substance use making it difficult for the individual with a substance use issue to focus on and engage in their own treatment in a meaningful and effective manner, especially while in early recovery. MAT allows the individual to experience diminished cravings for a prolonged period of time while they learn coping mechanisms and other important life skills and so they can process any other issues such as trauma or other mental health conditions that must be addressed in order to be successful in long term recovery.

The use of medications combined with traditional treatment and therapies has proved to be an highly effective approach when compared to medication alone or therapy alone. Research has shown that MAT significantly increases a patient’s adherence to treatment and reduces illicit opioid use compared with nondrug approaches.

According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) MAT is still greatly underused despite being the most evidenced-based approach in addiction treatment to date! According to SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2002-2010, the proportion of heroin admissions with treatment plans that included receiving medication-assisted opioid therapy fell from 35% in 2002 to 28% in 2010. 

The adoption of these evidence-based treatment options for alcohol and opioid dependence has been slow, this is partly due to misconceptions about substituting one drug for another. Discrimination against MAT patients is also an unfourtnate factor, despite state and federal laws clearly prohibiting it. Other factors include lack of training for physicians and negative opinions toward MAT in communities and among health care professionals and in traditional “recovery” communities.

 

The Research is Clear: MAT Works

Before we start talking about how intensive therapy is needed for MAT, we need to talk about the effectiveness of medications that are FDA approved for use in MAT, because they are not used nearly enough in addiction treatment centers.

MAT has proved to be clinically effective and to significantly reduce the need for inpatient detoxification services for these individuals. MAT provides a more comprehensive, individually tailored program of medication and behavioral therapy. MAT also includes support services that address the needs of most patients.

The ultimate goal of MAT is full recovery, including the ability to live a self-directed life. This treatment 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
  • Research also shows that these medications and therapies can contribute to lowering a person’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by reducing the potential for relapse. 



The research backs this up: Various studies, including systematic reviews of the research, have found that MAT can cut the all-cause mortality rate among addiction patients by half or more. Just imagine if a medication came out for any other disease — that cuts mortality by half; it would be a huge discovery.

It’s clear that MAT can be life-changing for many. However, many out there who struggle with addiction need more than medication and 30 minute counseling sessions to fully recover. For instance, those who are suffering from past traumas and/or their mental health would most likely need more intensive therapy to prevent relapses in the future. 

Medication can be paired with other kinds of treatment to better results. It can be used in tandem with cognitive behavioral therapy or similar approaches, which teach people how to deal with problems or settings that can lead to relapse. All of that can also be paired with 12-step programs like AA and NA or other support groups in which people work together and hold each other accountable in the fight against addiction. It all varies from patient to patient.

 

MAT Isn’t Used Enough in Traditional Treatment Settings

Unfortunately, MAT is greatly underused. For instance, according to SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2002-2010, less than 1/2 of privately-funded substance use disorder treatment programs offer MAT and only 1/3 of clients with opioid dependence at these programs actually receive it.

The slow adoption of these evidence-based treatment options for alcohol and opioid dependence is partly due to misconceptions about substituting one drug for another. Discrimination against MAT patients is also a factor, despite state and federal laws clearly prohibiting it. Other factors include lack of training for physicians and negative opinions toward MAT in communities and among health care professionals.

 

Individualized Treatment is Key

It’s important to note that individualized treatment is one of the most important factors for successful recovery. What works for one client may not work for another. Although MAT can be life-changing for many, it may not be the solution for you or your loved one. 

Christin Protesto, Director of Nursing at Archstone Behavioral Health, emphasizes just how important individualized treatment is.

“The term “recovery” can mean many different things and should be individualized,” he said. “It is important to discuss with clients and their families what “recovery” means to them and what their specific recovery goals are. This is to ensure they are being cared for as an individual and that the client and treatment team and working toward a common, patient driven goals.”

To know for sure if MAT is right for you, it’s best to consult with a clinician at an addiction treatment center. They can make the final call on what treatment plan can be the most beneficial for you or a loved one. 

 

Where You Can Turn For Addiction Treatment

Admitting that you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol is difficult, but it’s the first essential step towards achieving long-term recovery. Going to a rehab, like Archstone Recovery, with a compassionate staff that will help you with every step along the way can be the key to staying sober.

Archstone focuses on the tradition of 12-step treatment, it’s a tradition that has worked for millions of people searching for recovery, and it can help you or a loved one currently struggling with addiction too. 

We also offer a full continuum of care, so you don’t need to bounce between treatment centers, and you’ll always work with the same staff.

Call Archstone Recovery now at: 561-902-3524 to get help for you or a loved one today.