Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT has been around for at least 50 years or more. However, it has grown in popularity a great deal in the past decade. There are a fair number of misunderstandings about what MAT actually consists of and how it works. This article will attempt to clear up misconceptions and provide useful information. Modern Medication Assisted Treatment had its beginnings in the 1970s with methadone programs for heroin addicts, but it has evolved dramatically in that time. The reason for the increase in popularity of MAT in recent years is simple enough to define in one word: Outcomes.
Treating addiction is one of the more challenging fields of medicine because addiction is a disease of the mind and the recidivism rate can be discouraging. As addiction medicine has evolved and more and more treatment programs are embracing evidence-based treatment, which focuses on proven results, MAT has become an increasingly attractive tool for helping patients. The truth is that patients who are in MAT programs, particularly chronic relapse who have been to treatment more than 2 or 3 times, put together far more sober time following MAT than they do without it.
Medications like buprenorphine are used in MAT to suppress cravings and give newly recovered patients a much stronger chance at remaining drug-free in their first year. This buys them valuable time for self-growth. Time to attend therapy and to participate in fellowships and build a personal form of recovery that will help sustain them in the years ahead. One of the obstacles to MAT in the past, and today, has been the misconceptions we touched upon earlier. These include:
- The idea that someone on MAT isn’t “sober”.
- The idea that MAT interferes with recovery somehow.
- The idea that MAT is a “cop out” or not the correct way of doing things.
All of these are misconceptions. The reality is that MAT delivers results and it has undoubtedly saved lives. It is important that it be presented and available as an option for treatment whenever appropriate. MAT also includes more than just medication. It is a systemic form of care that incorporates group and sometimes individual therapy, goal setting, evaluation and support. It is not simply a “maintenance” program without end. The goal with MAT is more than simply harm reduction, though that is certainly part of it in early days. The ultimate objective is the same as all conventional drug and alcohol treatment. That is, to get the recovered person to a place where they can sustain their recovery indefinitely. They are removed from the most immediate sources of potential harm and equipped with the tools they need to continue their growth.
One of the essential ideas that should be instilled in any patient in a treatment program, whether MAT is involved or not, is that recovery is a lifestyle. It’s not a set of goal posts that a person reaches and then they are done working. Rather it’s a journey that we continue on for life. It’s about consciously implementing new ideas and behaviors into our lives to help us stay happy, healthy and drug free ad continuing to grow. Medication Assisted Treatment has proven to be an effective tool for many people, especially those who may have struggled to stay in recovery without it in the past.
If you have questions about Medication Assisted Treatment or drug and alcohol treatment in general, please give us a call or hop on our chat and we’ll be happy to help.