The Proven Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatments

by Cathy Taughinbaugh
March 16, 2020

Researchers now know that that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid users is saving lives.

MAT is a treatment option for those who are struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). Medications help reduce the cravings that often derail a person’s recovery.

When considering MAT, discuss with medical professionals the best course of action. Therapy, combined with MAT, helps to support long-term change.

Because these medications help with the cravings, they allow a person to be a reliable employee, complete their education, and generally function without the ups and downs of drug abuse.

Here are five options to consider:

  1. Methadone treats addiction to opiates (such as heroin). Methadone, which is taken once a day, eases opiate withdrawal for twenty-four to thirty-six hours. As a treatment for opiate addiction, methadone blocks the “high” and prevents the intense euphoric rush of opioids.
  2. Buprenorphine (Suboxone) is a prescription medication for the treatment of opioid dependence. As with any maintenance drug, it should be used in combination with therapy and other supports. There can be side effects, so it is essential to use Suboxone only under the supervision of a doctor. To learn more, watch this video from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids:
  3. Sublocade is the first once-monthly injectable buprenorphine product for the treatment of moderate-to-severe opioid use disorder (OUD) in adult patients. The FDA approved it on November 30, 2017.
  4. Naltrexone is the generic form of the brand-name drug Vivitrol. It is in a class of medicines known as opiate antagonists. It works by blocking the effects of narcotic drugs. You can take naltrexone as a tablet or have an injection.
  5. Probuphine is a tiny implant inserted into the arm. It delivers a constant low dose of buprenorphine —a medication already used to treat opioid addiction—for six months. The FDA approved it on May 26, 2016.

Here are some thoughts about MAT from the experts:

According to Dr. Ken Saffier, MD, who works with patients with SUD in northern California, the benefits of opioid “maintenance” are

  • increased treatment retention
  • an 80 percent decrease in both drug use and crime
  • a 70 percent decrease in the death rate
  • a decrease in hepatitis C and HIV transmission

Without MAT, Dr. Saffier says, there is a risk of an 80 percent to 90 percent relapse rate to drug use.

In the article “Why Are We Questioning Opiate Replacement Medications and Naltrexone for Opioid Dependence?” Jeff Foote, Ph.D., and Carrie Wilkens, Ph.D., state, “There are a number of FDA-approved, evidence-based medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorders, which are treatments that support long-term recovery and significantly reduce overdose rates. However, the traditional drug and alcohol treatment industry has been shockingly slow to support their use.”

The article goes on to say, “Over two million Americans are estimated to be dependent on opioids, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under 50 years of age. America’s opioid habit is an undeniable tragedy, and is one of the worst public health crises in the nation’s history. It is made all the more tragic by the fact that there are many viable, proven treatments for the problem, yet they are not widely known or accepted. This must change if we are to stem the tide of opioid addiction in this nation and prevent more loss of life.”

In the article “How New Options Can Help Teens Get the Treatment They Need,” Kali Lux, from Workit Health, states, “We live in a society that stigmatizes the evidence-backed, gold-standard of care when it comes to opioid use disorder: medication-assisted treatment like buprenorphine or methadone. These drugs drastically cut death rates from an overdose. Those people who are struggling with opioid addiction get their lives back.

“Why does this matter? Because buprenorphine and methadone work. They save lives and increase recovery rates. Period.”

For more information, visit the website for The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). ASAM is a professional society where you can learn more and get help finding a doctor in your area.

Find out more about Cathy here:

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  1. Yes, they can work when used properly. However, my son is hopelessly addicted to Suboxone and has been since he was first given the drug six years ago. He continues to push doctors to increase the dosage and these providers never hold him to the “treatment” portion of MAT. So no therapy and a drug which mimics an opiate along with stimulants and benzos (all prescribed) make for a very desperate ,not to mention dangerous, situation. Sorry, in my experience, this is no salvation.

  2. That is a difficult spot to be in, Leslie, if you feel your son is abusing Suboxone. As the article mentions, Suboxone, as well as the other medications, are to be used under the advice of a doctor. Therapy as well is recommended because it is important to get to the root of the problem. Some ideas to consider are meeting with the doctor if your son gives permission, expressing your concerns and coming up with a plan of action.. A second opinion with a medical professional might open up some other options.

    Suboxone does have withdrawal symptoms, so a doctor would need to be involved in that process as well. MAT has been shown to save lives, but every situation is different, and it sounds like some additional options may help your son live a more balanced life.

  3. I believe my son could benefit from taking the monthly injections , where can we find out more information?

    • Brenda, The best option is to start with your son’s doctor. He or she could direct you to an addiction specialist in your area that could prescribe the injections. Also, you can search as well on The American Society of Addiction Medicine or ASAM. Here is their link –

      I hope your son can get the best support for his situation.

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