Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, often in combination with counseling and possibly help from a person with lived experience of managing addiction. These services provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders. For that reason, MAT has become the most recommended treatment, and many people struggling with the disease of addiction say that MAT has helped them sustain their recovery. You can receive MAT in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions. These medications are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and people may safely take them for months, years, several years, or even a lifetime. As always, plans to stop a medication must always be discussed with a doctor.
Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are used to treat opioid dependence and addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. (You might know buprenorphine by the brand names, Suboxone© or Subutex© and naltrexone by the brand name Vivitrol©.)
Disulfiram (Antabuse©), acamprosate (Campral©) and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat alcohol use disorder. None of these drugs provide a cure for a disorder, but they are most effective in people who participate in a MAT program.
Naloxone is an especially important medication used to “reverse” an opioid overdose and save someone’s life. All people in New Jersey who want to have naloxone to prevent crisis can buy NARCAN© kits over-the-counter from their pharmacy or attend a specialized training available from New Jersey’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. More information is available at https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dmhas/initiatives/naloxone.html
Another medication to consider is nicotine-replacement therapy, or NRT. More and more people who manage substance use disorders want to add this treatment, so they can also quit smoking. Our field is making a lot of progress in NRT, and many people say that they appreciate it when doctors or nurses help them get NRT as a part of their overall recovery.
Finally, many people managing the disease of addiction also learn, when they start treatment, that they also have a “co-occurring” mental illness, such as serious depression or anxiety disorder. Most consumers say that they’ve had far more success when they also were prescribed medications that treat specific mental illnesses. These medications are sometimes also considered “assisted” treatments.
DMHAS has established two MAT Centers of Excellence, one in the north at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and one in the south at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. Contact them at COE@njms.rutgers.edu if you live in Northern New Jersey; if you live in the Southern region, contact Nikole Ticcino at email@example.com.
To learn more, visit the website of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration at https://www.samhsa.gov