Medication-assisted treatment, commonly known as “MAT,” is the combination of FDA-approved medications, behavioral therapy, and counseling that aims to provide a whole-patient approach to addiction recovery. The medications used in MAT have been clinically tested and proven to help people struggling with addiction sustain their recovery.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma and harmful myths surrounding medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Understanding where these myths come from, why they are harmful, and what the truth really is can help people gain access to the life-saving treatment they deserve.
Here are six widespread myths and facts about medication-assisted treatment.
1. MAT Means Trading One Addiction for Another Addiction
The most popular myth about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is that this approach replaces one addiction with another. This myth is inspired by a specific type of MAT called methadone maintenance during which patients visit a clinic each day to get their methadone. Methadone is considered an opioid and does have the potential for abuse, so many people believe this myth.
Fact: People taking the medications used in MAT are not getting high off their medications. They are taking a prescription given to them by a doctor and pharmacist who have the clinical understanding of when these medications are helpful. If you are concerned about getting addicted to methadone, alternative medications like buprenorphine and naltrexone have lower abuse potential.
2. If You’re on MAT, You Aren’t Really Sober
Because of the myth that MAT trades one addiction for another, some people believe that people who are using MAT aren’t really sober. This myth also stems from popular ideologies in 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which promote complete abstinence.
Fact: If you take your medications correctly, as prescribed by your physician, you aren’t abusing them. You also aren’t experiencing euphoric side effects like you would if you were using opioids or drinking alcohol. As a result, being in MAT while abstaining from drugs and alcohol does mean you are sober.
3. MAT is Only For People Who Are Addicted to Opioids
As of 2022, the United States is still battling an opioid epidemic that takes the lives of more than 150 Americans each day. Opioid addiction is all over the news and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been deemed the gold standard when it comes to treating the condition. However, MAT isn’t only for people struggling with opioid use disorder.
Fact: Medication-assisted treatment is also available to people with an alcohol use disorder. FDA-approved medications like naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol) and acamprosate (Campral) can reduce the risk of alcohol relapse.
4. MAT is too Expensive
Rehab can be costly, and many people believe that adding medications into their treatment regimen will only increase their out-of-pocket costs. While finances are important to consider, MAT can be affordable. It can also help you stay sober in the long run, thereby reducing further costs of your addiction down the road.
Fact: Most insurance plans cover substance abuse treatment, including the medications prescribed during it. Speak with your insurance provider to learn more about your coverage. If you don’t have insurance, many addiction treatment centers will work out a payment plan with you that allows you to cover the cost of your medications and treatments over time.
5. You Can Only Use MAT in Early Recovery
Another popular myth about MAT is that it is only meant for short-term treatment so it is just a “quick fix.” This myth comes from the idea that medications are only used during detox.
Fact: The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery, and everyone has their own unique treatment needs. Some people only need medications during detox. Others need medications for several months or years. In fact, most people stay on MAT for 12 months or more, and research has shown that patients who receive at least 1-2 years of MAT have the best chance of staying sober.
6. MAT Doesn’t Actually Work
Because of all of the myths about medication-assisted treatment, some people don’t think this treatment approach works. Long-term studies prove otherwise.
Fact: According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT has been proven to:
- Improve patient survival
- Increase retention in treatment
- Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
- Reduce a person’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by reducing relapse potential
MAT is an evidence-based, clinically-driven treatment approach that can save lives.
Find Out if Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is Right For You
Medication-assisted treatment may not be right for everyone, and you should never take medication unless it is prescribed to you by a licensed physician. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and are interested in MAT, please contact us today.
Our team of dedicated admissions coordinators can evaluate your situation, verify your insurance, and help you choose the right treatment plan for you. Call now to get started.