Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), involves the use of certain medications in conjunction with standard drug and alcohol treatment programs. Studies indicate that a combination of medication and counseling can successfully treat substance use disorders and may contribute to long-term recovery.
How Medications Help with Addiction
Several different medications are used to treat alcoholism and addiction to opioids -- both illicit drugs and legally-prescribed painkillers. As of yet, there are no medications legally approved for treatment of addiction to methamphetamines, cocaine or marijuana, although some meds may be prescribed to relieve stomach upset, nausea, headaches or other symptoms of withdrawal.
Medications commonly used for treatment of alcoholism include: Disulfiram, Naltrexone and Acamprosate, which have somewhat different purposes. Disulfiram is used for people who have completed detox and are in the early days of abstinence. Naltrexone blocks the euphoria produced by alcohol, thus helping people stay in treatment and avoid relapses. Acamprosate, which reduces long-term symptoms such as anxiety, restless and insomnia, is for people who have already stopped drinking but continue to struggle with cravings.
Medications commonly used for treatment of opioid addiction include: Methadone, Naltrexone and Buprenorphine. Although the three medications work in different ways, they all help block the euphoric effects of opioids and decrease symptoms of withdrawal, thus allowing people to engage in counseling and therapy.
The Argument Against use of Medication-Assisted Therapy
Although the use of medications is supported by the scientific community, some people argue that medication-assisted treatment only trades one drug for another, primarily because some anti-addiction medications are in the same drug family as opioids.