Common Misconceptions About MAT
Medication-Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders carries an abundance of unwarranted negative baggage. What’s surprising is that people struggling with substance use disorders encounter the most strident resistance to this type of treatment from other individuals in recovery who advocate a type of abstinence that prohibits the use of medication in recovery. It’s unfortunate, because this point of view is based on misinformation and a lack of understanding about what medication-assisted treatment really is.
We want to make something perfectly clear right away:
Using the best available medication to treat a substance use disorder is not – we repeat – NOT the same thing as using drugs to get high.
If we could broadcast this message to every person impacted by opioid addiction and overcome these dangerous misconceptions, we would. The stigma against Medication-Assisted Treatment is a barrier that we’re committed to removing.
Instead, we’ll give you ten simple facts directly from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT):
- Is a clinically proven effective treatment for substance use disorders.
- Is most often offered in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapy.
- Is especially effective for people with opioid use disorders.
- Increases time-in-treatment.
- Decreases illicit opioid use in people with opioid use disorders.
- Decreases criminal behavior in individuals with substance use disorders
- Increases ability to seek, gain, and maintain employment.
- Can reduce the need for detox services for people struggling with heroin use.
- Is highly regulated at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Improves patient survival by reducing overdose risk.
Pay special attention to that last point: MAT saves lives.
Members of our clinical staff say that one of the most important things about MAT – in addition to saving lives and mitigating the extremely uncomfortable symptoms of withdraw – is that it gets people feeling well enough to begin treatment.
That’s a big deal.
When you use drugs – particularly opioids – for an extended period of time, your brain undergoes drastic changes. When you remove drugs from your system, your brain overreacts. It floods the body with stress hormones. You feel sick. You become agitated, unhappy, and it’s difficult to carry out the most basic activities in life. Medication can normalize the brain functioning and reduce levels of circulating stress hormones thereby enabling you to participate in regular daily activities. You can go to work, take care of your kids, and be an active spouse or partner – and you can start participating in recovery activities.
In short, medication can make recovery possible for people for whom recovery was previously almost impossible.
That’s what we’ll tell you if you come to us and say,
“Doc, I don’t want to use drugs to get off drugs.”
We’ll never make you do anything. If you don’t want to use medication, we honor your choice and respect your wishes. We won’t (we can’t) make you take it. We will, however, offer you the evidence we presented above, and give you the treatment you’ll accept when you’re ready to accept it.