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Experts in the field of addiction have, for years, known that Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the most effective method of treating individuals addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers. As the epidemic of opioid abuse continues to ravage cities across the country, lawmakers and the media are only now catching up.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released an informational PDF eBook entitled “Medication Assisted Treatment,” which aims to educate friends, families and recovery professionals on how to approach addiction with medicine rather than traditional self-help groups.
“…[With] a treatment system that sees to medication and psychiatric care and social supports, there is tremendous hope…,” says Dr. John Knight, in the MAT eBook.
Though the eBook is geared towards adolescents, Medication Assisted Treatment Therapy has proven effective in adults battling with opioid addiction as well.
What Assessments are Used for Medication Assisted Treatment?
MAT based facilities begin treatment with an assessment of their patients that include some of the following:
- Length of opioid use, as well as other drugs and alcohol
- The number of times a patient has been in treatment, if any
- Overall mental and physical health exam
- Additional medications a patient might be taking for previous conditions
- Goals for recovery
- Potential medicine based approaches to treatment for addiction
After the initial appraisal, physicians and their staff consider various medications, such as buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone, that will best fit their patient’s needs. As a person moves through medically eased withdrawal symptoms, the work of recovery begins with some of the following:
- Consider whether the use of alcohol or other drugs will interfere with their recovery
- Work to improve overall mental and physical health, through both medication and counseling
- Regular doctor visits in which medication doses are adjusted as needed
- Develop skills to avoid relapse by replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy choices
Despite sweeping statistics in which fatal overdoses have increased in almost every county in the United States, an estimated 61 percent as a result of opioids, many rehab facilities still lag behind these modern and effective treatment methods.
Market Watch reports that in the U.S., treatment centers generate profits upwards of $35 billion a year.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will be insured for addiction treatment than ever before and economists are forecasting a three-fold increase in revenues. With such high profits, some critics argue that many rehab centers are not up to the task.
A contributor at Forbes.com, Dan Munro writes, “The vast majority of addiction treatment is based either partially or entirely on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)…Should addiction treatment centers make enormous profits by simply funneling substance abusers into the free fellowship of AA?”
In the documentary The Business of Recovery, Dr. Lance Dodes, a director at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, shares his thoughts on AA and 12 step programs. “It’s helpful for 5-10% and that’s a good thing. That’s 5-10-% of people who are helped by AA – it’s a lot better than zero percent – but it shouldn’t be thought of as the standard of treatment because it fails for most people…”
Medication Assisted Treatment is an approach to recovery that saves lives. Though self-help groups have been effective for many, much more is known about addiction and its effect on brain chemistry than ever before.
Those suffering the physical and mental symptoms of addiction should not have to grit their teeth and bear a painful withdrawal and recovery when MAT has proven successful in returning so many others to a normal, happy and healthy life.