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MAT Benefits: Reasons to Choose Medication for Addiction Treatment

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By Joshua Rothschild, JD, MPH
Jul 22, 2021

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is considered the gold standard of treatment for opioid use disorder. Health care providers and researchers overwhelmingly agree that MAT is more effective than other methods of stopping opioid use for most people. There are multiple medications that can be used in MAT, including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, all of which are approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Of these, buprenorphine has the best combination of safety and effectiveness. MAT is most effective when used in conjunction with counseling and psychosocial support but can be used on its own.

Here at Bicycle Health, we usually prefer buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and related medications over treatments like methadone, which have less solid safety profiles. Suboxone and medications like it are themselves combinations of two different medications: buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid, which is very different from opioids like oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid, it reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal but does not produce intoxication or a “high” like full opioids do. Drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone are full opioids. Partial opioids are also much safer than full opioids because of what is known as their ceiling effect. After the “ceiling” dose has been taken, partial opioids like buprenorphine do not have any additional effect. Buprenorphine treatment is often combined with naloxone in medications like Suboxone. Naloxone (commonly known as Narcan) is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks opioids in the brain. Therefore, the combination of buprenorphine with naloxone (as in Suboxone and similar medications) drastically reduces the potential for people to misuse it.

MAT is an evidence-based treatment option for opioid dependence

The benefits of MAT over other types of treatment have been demonstrated many times. In fact, there is almost no research to support the use of non-MAT treatments for most people who feel physically dependent on opioids. There have been over 500 peer-reviewed research studies that show that MAT reduces cravings, reduces illicit opioid use, provides relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms, and decreases relapse rates.  MAT that uses buprenorphine /naloxone (Suboxone) is considered the safest form of MAT because it rarely has side effects, and when people experience side effects, they are usually mild. Most other medications can be taken with Suboxone without a negative interaction. Medication for Addiction Treatment with methadone has a reasonable safety profile, but it has a few side effects that Suboxone does not. This is one of the reasons why many health care providers prefer buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) over methadone.

It is important to note that treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is not replacing one addiction with another. Addiction is an illness, not a character flaw or personal weakness. Opioid addiction dramatically alters brain reward and reinforcement pathways and buprenorphine /naloxone (Suboxone) helps treat this illness. Like patients who take daily blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease medications, patients with opioid addiction often take daily Medication for Addiction Treatment to lead their healthiest lives. 

To learn more about why buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a good treatment for unwanted opioid use or addiction, visit our related blog post here.

MAT is an affordable treatment option

Medications for Addiction Treatment (MAT) are meant to be affordable and are covered by Medicaid in every state (though sometimes state Medicaid only covers some forms of MAT and not others). Private insurance usually also covers MAT, and the government has created a free online tool to provide Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help. Our team at Bicycle Health can also check your current insurance coverage – please schedule a call or view our online resources here

MAT decreases the likelihood of relapse and overdose

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is critical to prevent relapse, overdose, and death. And importantly, research shows that within one month of stopping buprenorphine treatment, more than 50% of patients relapse to illicit opioid use. Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a highly effective form of MAT that helps patients feel healthy, minimize cravings, and avoid relapse. 

MAT is a safe treatment option for pregnant patients

Treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) during pregnancy has much better outcomes for both the mother and baby than untreated opioid use. Babies whose mothers use opioids are at risk of spontaneous abortion, pre-term birth, congenital disorders, and long-term health and developmental problems. These babies are also at higher risk of needing to stay in the Intensive Care Unit after being born. On the other hand, babies whose mothers are treated with MAT have much better long-term outcomes than babies whose mothers are not. It is therefore very important to talk to a health care professional about your pregnancy and opioid use. We encourage you to contact us or your physician as soon as possible if you are pregnant and using opioids. 

Another medication that is sometimes used to help pregnant women stop using opioids is methadone. At Bicycle Health, we believe that buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and related medications are usually better for the baby than methadone, but this depends on the individual case. If you are pregnant and trying to stop using opioids, please reach out to us. Our health care providers have significant experience helping pregnant mothers who use opioids and are available to answer any questions you might have about Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) for pregnant women. 

Here at Bicycle Health, we offer Medication for Addiction Treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and related medications to help patients stop or cut down on their opioid use. To learn more about the proven evidence behind Medication for Addiction Treatment, call us at (844) 943-2514, or schedule an appointment here

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

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