Pathways Wellness

What to Understand Before Utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

What to Understand Before Utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Raul Haro
August 5, 2023
When people go into addiction treatment, sometimes they may need to use medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This is when someone works with a doctor, usually a psychiatrist, to start a temporary medication regimen. MAT is used to reduce the negative symptoms of addiction so a client can be more comfortable as they work on their recovery. […]
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What to Understand Before Utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

When people go into addiction treatment, sometimes they may need to use medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This is when someone works with a doctor, usually a psychiatrist, to start a temporary medication regimen. MAT is used to reduce the negative symptoms of addiction so a client can be more comfortable as they work on their recovery.

MAT is not the same as getting medication for a co-occurring mental health disorder, like getting anti-depressants to treat depression. Medication-assisted treatment is used for the treatment of addiction and related symptoms.  

MAT is mostly used to manage withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs and substances have withdrawal symptoms that can be serious if not managed correctly. Withdrawal happens during the detox process, where someone abstains from using a drug or substance to remove it from their system. This is easier said than done, as detox requires the oversight of a medical professional to keep the person safe. Medication-assisted treatment can be helpful to reduce the overall negative symptoms encountered through detox and prevent any medical emergencies.

Sometimes MAT is used to help clients manage their cravings. A craving is when you have a sudden urge to engage in drug and substance use. You may have experienced cravings when suddenly wanting a bag of chips or a slice of cake. Addiction cravings are similar, but they are much stronger and can be hard to ignore. This is because when engaging in substance or drug use, it changes the chemistry of the brain. When the brain cannot get these chemicals, it sends signals to the body to tell the person that it wants them. Utilizing medication-assisted treatment can help reduce these cravings and allow the client to successfully ignore them. 

Although MAT is helpful, it's important to understand a few things before receiving it as part of your treatment at Pathways Wellness Center.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Not Meant to Last Forever

MAT is used as a part of treatment to reduce symptoms and increase comfort. However, it is not designed to be a regular part of someone's life once treatment is over. Clients will only be given medication-assisted treatment for as long as it is necessary. Afterward, clients are weaned off the treatment. 

There are several reasons for this, one of which is that clients are in addiction treatment to learn how to cope with difficulties without turning to drugs and substances. Many people are tempted to use MAT as a crutch, but it was never meant to act as such. It is a tool to help someone detox safely and allow them to focus on their treatment.

Someone should not feel as though they need to turn to medication to deal with stress. Instead, they will learn how to deal with cravings using healthy coping skills learned during treatment. Once someone has finished detox, they no longer need to manage withdrawal symptoms as the drug or substance will be out of their systems. In these cases, MAT is no longer needed and can be stopped. 

Pathways Wellness Center believes strongly that clients should learn how to be confident in themselves and believe in their support network. A person cannot trust themselves if they feel as though medication is the only thing keeping them from a relapse. Finding your inner strength and will is an important part of addiction treatment. Believing that you have to be medicated for the rest of your life for addiction defeats the purpose of these lessons. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Safe

When receiving MAT, a client can trust that they will remain safe throughout the process. This is because medication-assisted treatment is overseen by a medical professional who will monitor their health and well-being. Care must be taken because sometimes a client may need other forms of medication to treat another mental health disorder. Examples of disorders that often require medication are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Clients who need to take medications for these disorders must be careful because some medications can negatively react with each other.

To prevent a potential reaction, clients will see a medical professional that will make sure the medicine they take as part of MAT will not harm them. Sometimes this means that a client may take different medication compared to another client. It can also take time to find the right medication to help. Clients are counseled about their medication through medication management, which helps them stay safe throughout the MAT process. 

Nobody is just simply given medicine and left to their own devices. MAT is constantly monitored for the safety of the client involved.

Things to Remember About MAT

There are some important things that a client should remember before they begin medication-assisted treatment. 

Firstly, the medicine is not there to change your personality or turn you into a “zombie.” It's there to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more comfortable in treatment. 

Second, never suddenly stop a medication while in MAT. Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist first if you feel off or experience side effects. They will help you wean off the medication safely or find a new medication to try. 

Third, you, as a client, have the right to say no. Nobody can force you to take medication against your will. Staff at Pathways Wellness Center will encourage clients to try treatments that may help them. They will never force or demand.

Lastly, a person is not a failure because they need MAT. It is simply a tool, like using a cast until a bone is healed. 

If you feel as though you may benefit from medication-assisted treatment, speak to your treatment provider or case manager. Even if you choose not to use MAT, Pathways will always help their clients find the treatments right for them.

Substances and drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms, changes to brain chemistry, and cravings that make recovering from addiction difficult. However, some treatment methods have proven effective in helping people overcome their addiction. One of which is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT can be part of any treatment plan and is designed to eventually taper off in use as the client improves. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, our clients have access to a wide range of quality treatments to help them make the perfect treatment plan. Nobody deserves to struggle with addiction alone. If you or a loved one needs help with their addiction, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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