Medication Assisted Treatments: How Do They Work?

Medication Assisted Treatments: How Do They Work?

Written by MaggieB, In General, Health, Published On
September 17, 2022

MAT is a broad term for any program that uses drugs as a secondary measure to treat drug addiction. Also known as pharmacotherapy or medication-assisted therapy, MAT uses specific medications in addition to counseling, support groups, and other traditional methods of managing substance abuse. These treatments aim to reduce the risk of relapse and keep the sober patient long-term. Whether you’re researching your options for managing addiction or supporting someone you love who needs help dealing with alcohol or drug dependency, this guide will give you what you need to know about MAT.

Medication Assisted Treatments: How Do They Work?

  • Naltrexone Therapy:

Naltrexone treats alcohol and opioid dependency. It is also used to treat people with eating disorders, particularly bulimia, who depend on the eating disorder. Naltrexone is an opioid-receptor antagonist. What this means is that it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. People who abuse opiates, such as heroin, depend on these substances to create feelings of pleasure and to eliminate feelings of pain. Naltrexone blocks the receptors in the brain that the opioids bind to, preventing the person from feeling pleasure from using heroin or any other opioid drug.

  • Disulfiram Therapy:

Disulfiram treats alcohol dependence. When a person drinks alcohol while taking disulfiram, it creates a very unpleasant reaction that usually includes feelings of nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

  • Buprenorphine Therapy:

Buprenorphine treats opioid dependence. It is a synthetic opioid that is more powerful than heroin and morphine. Because of its strength, it is not used as the first line of treatment for opioid addiction. It is usually used as a second line of defense after someone has tried an opioid agonist and been unable to kick their addiction.

  • Vivitrol Therapy:

Vivitrol treats alcohol and opioid dependence. It is a long-lasting injectable drug that blocks the effects of alcohol and opioids for about a month. It’s often used with other forms of addiction treatment, such as therapy, to keep people sober more effectively.

  • Naltrexone/Buprenorphine Therapy:

This combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine. It is used in the treatment of opioid dependence. The combination of these drugs makes it very difficult for someone to misuse their prescription or inject it into a vein for a high.

  • Psychosocial Therapy:

This therapy focuses on the psychological factors and environmental influences contributing to a person’s addiction. It helps patients identify triggers, causes, and patterns in their behavior related to substance abuse and how it affects their mental state and relationships with friends and family.

Advantages of MAT

  • It can treat addiction to any substance, including hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
  • It can be used to treat addiction to substances without known or reliable cures, such as alcohol and nicotine.
  • It treats the psychological aspects of addiction in addition to the physical symptoms.
  • It can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as therapy and inpatient programs.
  • It gives the user something tangible to focus on, like taking a daily pill.

Disadvantages of MAT

  • It’s not a cure, so it’s not guaranteed to work.
  • Results vary depending on the drug and the individual.
  • The effects of the drugs may wear off, which can cause the user to withdraw.
  • The drugs are typically long-term treatments, meaning they must be taken indefinitely.
  • Some medications can cause side effects or harm the user’s health.
  • There is a risk of abuse, misuse, and overdose.

Co-occurring Disorders

People diagnosed with addiction and other mental health disorders are often prescribed medications to treat both disorders. These conditions often go hand in hand with addiction. A therapist may recommend medication-assisted treatment for co-occurring disorders to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. If you have a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, your treatment team will likely recommend antidepressants or mood stabilizers. Sometimes, you may need to be prescribed medications that work with your anti-addiction treatment. The decision to use drugs in addition to your other treatment methods is personal and up to you.


People often have misconceptions about MAT. Some people mistakenly believe that these drugs eliminate addiction when they work to manage it. This treatment has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of substance use disorders. It’s important to remember that these medications are not a cure for addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and support. Every person is unique, and so is their addiction. It’s essential to explore all the treatment options available and find the one that’s right for you.

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