Over 10 million people over the age of 12 have misused opioids in a given year. Even though the news cycle isn’t talking about the opioid epidemic as much, this crisis still has a chokehold on many communities. 

Opioids are easy to misuse and develop an addiction. Many are addicted to opioids faster than they ever thought possible. Opioid use disorder can lead to depression, anxiety, criminal activity, overdose, and death. Opioid addiction treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

Addiction can cause severe mental and physical health issues, broken relationships, and more. Opioids are so potent because they are legal in small doses. They’re still prescribed to help patients cope with pain, whether from injury, surgery, or something else. 

However, getting hooked on opioids complicates the issue further. People tend to resort to illicit means, which can lead to dangerous supplies, overdose, and death. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that recovery is impossible. It’s important to learn how medication-assisted treatment can help opioid addiction—let’s get started!

Medication-Assisted Treatment 

Often abbreviated as MAT, medication-assisted treatment is a lifesaver. In past decades, many people assumed that addicts simply lacked willpower. If they “tried hard enough” they would recover from addiction. 

That’s not how it works. The negative effects of withdrawal can be deadly, and being addicted to opioids isn’t a matter of willpower. It’s important to offer addicts access to a rehabilitation center, a medically-assisted detox, and any other medical services required. 

Medication-assisted treatment is usually part of a multi-faceted plan to help addicts recover. Usually, MAT is used to help addicts who are challenged by opioids, heroin, and prescription painkillers. 

This medication is often paired with counseling, behavioral therapy, and inpatient stays. This provides a healthy environment for addicts to receive the support and medical supervision they need to make a healthy recovery. 

It also gives them the necessary support system to make it through withdrawals. This alone can mean the difference between life and death. 

How Does MAT Work?

Here’s how it works. Medication-assisted treatment helps users because it restores the brain chemistry to how it should be. When someone takes opioids, they are overwhelmed with a euphoric effect. As you can imagine, this euphoria is incredibly stimulating and addictive.

This medication helps block the cravings that are associated with withdrawals. When these cravings are suppressed, it’s easier for recovering patients to focus on therapy, counseling, and behavioral changes. 

Usually, medication-assisted treatment is used in an inpatient environment. In some cases, intensive outpatient programs also leverage medication-assisted treatment to help their patients. 

The goal of MAT is to facilitate and sustain recovery. However, the goal is to prevent the risk of overdose and relapse. All drugs used in MAT are FDA-approved and clinically proven to help with opioid addiction. 

The results in real-life studies are promising, too. Since these medications are safe in both the short- and long-term, they help patients recover with a lower risk of relapse.

Which Drugs Might Be Prescribed?

One of the most common drugs that many people know about is naxolone. It’s saved countless lives over the years. Naxolone is used at the scene when someone has recently overdosed on opioids. In today’s world, many people keep naxolone on hand as a form of mutual aid. 

Naxolone matters because it reverses the effects of an overdose. While it won’t undo all damage, and while there are always cases where the patient is too far gone, it’s still a lifesaver. 

Naltrexone is another drug that works well. In most cases, naxolone is used for immediate lifesaving purposes. By contrast, naltrexone is used in long-term medication-assisted treatment. 

Opioids have a euphoric and sedative effect on users. Naltrexone helps block both of these effects, which makes it a great choice for recovering patients. 

Methadone is one of the most well-known medications for opioid users. As one of the first drugs used to combat opioid addiction, it can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Similar to naxolone, it also helps block the effects of opioids that have already been taken. 

Buprenorphine is another medication that helps people overcome dependency. Much like the other medications discussed, it reduces cravings and suppresses them, which helps with withdrawals and recovery.

The opioid crisis is not new. In fact, it’s been an issue in the United States since the Civil War, when soldiers dealing with previously unheard-of injuries needed painkillers. Addiction to morphine for many soldiers was painfully common. 

However, opioids are more powerful than ever before. If people turn to illegal supplies, their opioids could be laced with more powerful killers, like fentanyl. 

Does MAT Really Help?

There’s no question that drugs like naxolone save lives by reversing the effects of an overdose. This buys more time for medical intervention that keeps the patient going. 

But how does MAT impact the lives of people who are striving for recovery? As mentioned above, medication-assisted therapy is a multi-part plan. It’s not writing someone a prescription. 

Instead, it provides a very real case for embracing a rehabilitative vs. punitive approach to addiction. With tools like therapy, counseling, constructing support systems, and more, individuals are equipped with the tools they need. 

While in medication-assisted therapy, most people experience an improved survival rate in the long term. They have less chance of relapse, reduced criminal incidents, increased treatment retention, and reduced withdrawal symptoms. 

It also improves an individual’s chances to foster healthy relationships, gain employment, and beat their addiction for good. Studies show significantly reduced mortality rates in addicted patients who participate in MAT. 

Of course, part of the responsibility lies with the patient. Are they committed to taking their medication as prescribed by professionals? Are they attending therapy and putting in the work? If so, the success rate with MAT is remarkable.  

Opioid Addiction Treatment 

Obtaining opioid addiction treatment is crucial to long-term, holistic recovery. A medically-assisted detox or rehabilitation center is the way to go.

There’s no reason for you or your loved one to cope with this alone. We can help—contact us today!