Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the technique of using medication along with behavioral therapy to address an individual’s drug and alcohol misuse during rehab. An individual can have an Medication Assisted Treatment program designed specifically for their needs.1 This allows them to receive the best help possible.

A customized Medication Assisted Treatment program allows clients to receive tailored, high-quality care during their stay in rehab. People suffering with alcohol, prescription opioids, and opioid drugs such as heroin have found Medication Assisted Treatment to be successful. It is particularly helpful for persons suffering from addictions to physically addictive substances.

Rehab facilities may use Medication Assisted Treatment medications for a range of purposes during the stages of recovery. Reasons for using MAT may include:

  • Easing a person’s withdrawal symptoms during the detox process
  • Suppressing a person’s cravings for drugs and/or alcohol during the early stages of rehab2
  • Preventing drug or alcohol’s ability to produce a high
  • Disincentivizing drug and/or alcohol use by creating an adverse side effect when the substance is consumed

While Medication Assisted Treatment is powerful and effective, a person must attend individual and group counseling to make it more effective. An MAT counselor will help clients understand the root of addiction. They will then help the individual going through rehab build a new, sober life. Medication Assisted Treatment lessens the initial discomfort a person feels during rehab.

Individuals will find that group counseling and 12-step programs improve the support a client receives. In addition, they help to build bridges between people going through rehab. MAT address many of the issues that a person experiences during rehab. It also helps to tear down roadblocks that lead to drug and/or alcohol relapse. Medication Assisted Treatment allows a person to focus on themselves during rehab and the work that must be completed to fully recover.

MAT Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is a massive problem around the world. Heroin use is on the rise and many communities have become besieged by addicts of the drug. The use of opioid prescription medicine by doctors for a variety of health issues have caused some people to turn to harder drugs.

Medication Assisted Treatment is an evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction. It is claimed that a person’s chances of continuing long-term recovery increases significantly when MAT is used compared to approaches that do not use medication. Medication Assisted Treatment can ease the symptoms of withdraw from opioids, lower cravings, stop the effects of opioid drugs, and reverse an overdose.

MAT for opioid medication addiction

The biggest issue with opioids is that they are extremely addictive. Recovery from opioid addiction is difficult. Opioid addiction medications ease the difficulty of rehab. Methadone and buprenorphine are two types of opioid addiction medications that provide individuals the chance to recover. When opioid addiction medications are used in conjunction with a full rehab program and aftercare, a client can dramatically increase their outcomes for a positive recovery.

Medication Assisted Treatment MAT for opioid overdose

Opioids and prescription drugs consumed in high doses may have a life-threatening effect on the user. Consuming too much opioid medicine or illicit drugs can cause the person to have an overdose. Overdoses can also occur when a person takes too much of an opioid addiction medicine. An overdose can also happen if an individual takes an opioid addiction medicine along with another psychiatric drugs. MAT for opioid users should have access to overdose-reversing drugs. Naloxone3 is one type of opioid overdose medication that is available that stabilize a person.

MAT Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol is legally available to users and can be found at restaurants, bars, stores, and cafes. It is widely consumed by individuals and found in many places. Due to it being legal and found in multiple places, recovery from alcohol abuse can be a challenge. Withdrawal from alcohol produce a variety of painful symptoms.

MAT can make the recovery process easier and safer. MAT may reduce the cravings and lessen the high a person feels when consuming alcohol. Counselling along with MAT can lead to positive outcomes for individuals going through recovery. Disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate are often used as MAT medications.

Is Medication Assisted Treatment successful?

Rehabs provide clients with a range of therapy methods. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to recovery. Evidence-based MAT is one of the more useful tools an individual has in the fight against substance abuse.

MAT has been found to be effective compared to non-drug approach to therapy. Research has found that medication-assisted success rates are high for decreasing overdose deaths. MAT for opioid and alcohol addiction have been shown to decrease use, decrease a person’s criminal activity4, improve a person’s ability to obtain and maintain a job, and increase birth outcomes among pregnant women with substance use disorders.

What are pros and cons of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

While MAT sounds great, it does have its problems. Medication-assisted therapy is known as a harm-reduction approach. This means that it attempts to decrease the negative consequences of substance abuse. MAT decreases a person’s chances of overdosing by reducing their risk to abuse drugs. It also improves a person’s chances of staying in rehab and recovering.

Possible MAT risks are the side effects of the medication. An individual may need to acclimatize to each medication. They may experience symptoms like nausea, headaches, or dizziness when taking MAT. The severity and nature of the symptoms depends on the medication and the individual’s tolerance to it.

Individuals suffering from co-occurring conditions such as depression can find MAT to be helpful during recovery. MAT does come with its own set of challenges. An individual must use MAT as part of a larger treatment program to be fully effective. Most MAT methods require dosing on a daily basis. Individuals may experience stigma for participating in MAT recovery programs. MAT medications can create medical complications in some clients. In addition, MAT medications may be abused if the user is not carefully monitored.

Medication Assisted Treatment offers individuals seeking recovery from opioid and alcohol abuse the chance to get clean. Along with individual and group counselling, a person can lessen the impacts of withdrawal and gain lasting sobriety.

Mark Tyndall, Epidemiologist, physician, public health expert talks Medication Assisted Treatment

References: Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

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  3. Brinkley-Rubinstein, L., Zaller, N., Martino, S., Cloud, D. H., McCauley, E., Heise, A., et al. (2018). Criminal justice continuum for opioid users at risk of overdose. Addictive Behaviors [Epub ahead of print]. [PubMed]
  4. Caplan AL. Ethical issues surrounding forced, mandated, or coerced treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2006;31(2):117–120. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2006.06.009. [PubMed] []
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  9. Jushner, J., Peters, R., & Cooper, C. (2014). A technical assistance guide for drug court judges on drug court treatment services. National Drug Court Resource Center.
  10. Kushner, J. N., Peters, R. H., & Cooper, C. S. (2014). A technical assistance guide for drug court judges on drug court treatment services. Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court Technical Assistance Project.
  11. Larance B, Lintzeris N, Ali R, Dietze P, Mattick R, Jenkinson R, et al. The diversion and injection of a buprenorphine-naloxone soluble film formulation. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
  12. MacGillis A. The Last Shot. Propublica. 2017. []
  13. Mumola CJ, Karberg JC. Drug use and dependence, state and federal prisoners. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics; 2006. pp. 1–12. []
  14. Physicians for Human Rights . Neither justice nor treatment: Drug courts in the United States. 2017. []
  15. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1979). Office for human research protections. The Belmont Report Available at:
  16. World Health Organization . Guidelines for the psychosocially assisted pharmacological treatment of opioid dependence. 2009. [PubMed] []
  17. Young D. Impacts of perceived legal pressure on retention in drug treatment. Criminal Justice and Behaviour. 2002;29(1):27–55. doi: 10.1177/0093854802029001003. [CrossRef] []
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