Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a form of addiction treatment that combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat opioid addiction and alcoholism.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, “Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery. MAT is also used to prevent or reduce opioid overdose.”
While research has proven the benefits and efficacy of medication-assisted treatment, there are still common misconceptions and stigma related to MAT. Unfortunately, the common myths about medication-assisted treatment contribute to the many barriers to treatment.
To promote awareness and help individuals feel less ashamed about attending MAT programs, it is important to provide insight on how these misconceptions are simply based on opinions rather than facts.
Myth #1: Medication-Assisted Treatment is Just Trading One Addiction for Another
This is one of the most common myths associated with medication-assisted treatment. People believe that MAT is only trading one addiction for another because they do not understand how the medications work.
The medications used in MAT are FDA-approved for the use of addiction treatment. This means that there is a low risk of dependency and the medications are safe for recovering addicts to use.
Additionally, the medications are only dispensed by a licensed and trained medical professional. This prevents recovering addicts from being able to abuse their medications.
While the medications used in MAT are considered opioids, they are partial opioid agonists. In other words, the medications do not fully bind to opioid receptors in the brain. This prevents patients from receiving the high associated with addictive opioid substances while limiting their withdrawal symptoms and preventing cravings.
Myth #2: MAT is Only a Short-Term Treatment
Many people argue that medication-assisted treatment is not meant for long-term treatment. While this is true in some cases, patients continue their MAT program for as long as they need to. In fact, medication-assisted treatment has been proven more effective when used long-term and in combination with behavioral therapies and support groups.
This myth is not only untrue but extremely harmful. By promoting the idea that MAT is not acceptable as a long-term treatment, some individuals may feel rushed to come off of their medications. This could cause them to experience drug cravings before they are mentally and emotionally prepared to utilize healthy coping mechanisms, leading to an unnecessary relapse.
Myth #3: If you Participate in MAT, You Aren’t Serious About Sobriety
Some people have stated that participating in a medication-assisted treatment program is only for individuals who aren’t serious about their sobriety. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Many individuals have a hard time achieving long-term sobriety when they are only using behavioral therapies and intensive counseling treatments. This causes the individual to seek out higher levels of care, which is where medication-assisted treatment comes in.
If anything, taking advantage of a medication-assisted treatment program proves an individual’s dedication to their recovery. Sometimes recovering addicts need a little extra help dealing with the physiological effects of long-term addiction. MAT helps them overcome their withdrawal symptoms and cravings, allowing them to fully focus on treatment aspects such as behavioral therapy and counseling.
Myth #4: People Who use Medication-Assisted Treatment are Less Likely to Stay Sober
When MAT is used properly, studies have found that it produces higher success rates and decreased rates of relapse.
According to research, 49% of individuals utilizing medication-assisted treatment were able to remain sober. When you compare this to the 7% success rate of individuals who follow an abstinence program, it is easy to see how this belief is a pure myth.
Additionally, another study found that 80% of individuals who remained on MAT medications 18 months after treatment remained sober. Only 36.6% of the individuals who did not take advantage of MAT remained sober.
With that being said, medication-assisted treatment may not be for everyone. However, it is important not to stigmatize a form of addiction treatment that has been proven beneficial for a large number of people.
Myth #5: MAT is Expensive and Insurance Doesn’t Cover It
While some MAT programs can be expensive, many facilities offer sliding-scale fees, scholarships, and payment plans. Addiction treatment programs tend to consider their low-income patients by providing payment options that work for everyone.
Additionally, while many people believe that MAT is not covered by insurance, it usually is. Oftentimes, insurance plans cover treatments that are deemed “medically necessary” for the patient. If the medical professional at an addiction treatment program assesses a patient and decides that MAT would be beneficial, the patient’s insurance company will typically cover treatment costs.
Of course, when considering MAT, individuals should always ask specific programs about the payment options they offer. Additionally, prospective patients must contact their insurance company to find out what their plan will cover.
Get Connected With a Reputable Medication-Assisted Treatment Program
If you or a loved one suffer from opioid addiction or alcoholism, know that these common myths are not true, and medication-assisted treatment may be right for you. While medication-assisted treatment may not be right for everyone, it can help individuals who are resistant to abstinence-based treatment achieve long-term sobriety.
Recovery Centers can help you and your family decide whether a MAT program is the best choice for your unique needs. Contact us today to get connected with an addiction treatment provider that you can trust.