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MAT Benefits: Reasons to Choose Medication for Addiction Treatment

August 13, 2022

Table of Contents

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is considered the gold standard of treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Health care providers and researchers overwhelmingly agree that MAT is more effective than other methods of stopping opioid use. 

There are 3 medications that can be used as 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.

Here at Bicycle Health, we offer buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and related medications over treatments like methadone, which unfortunately can only be dispensed by a licensed methadone clinic. 

Suboxone is a combination of two different medications: Buprenorphine and Naloxone. 

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid, which is very different from full 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” to the extent that full opioids do. 

Partial opioids are also much safer than full opioids because of two reasons:

The first safety mechanism is what is known as their ceiling effect: After the “ceiling” dose has been taken, partial opioids like buprenorphine do not continue to decrease a person’s respiratory drive at higher doses, making overdose much less likely than with a full opioid. 

Their second safety mechanism is the inclusion of Naloxone in the Suboxone medication. Naloxone (commonly known as brand name Narcan) is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks opioids in the brain. If an individual attempts to inject Suboxone, the Naloxone becomes active and prevents the buprenorphine from binding in the body and causing an overdose. In this way, it serves as an added misuse-deterrent and protective mechanism for anyone attempting to misuse their Suboxone. 

MAT is an evidence-based treatment option for opioid dependence

The benefits of MAT over other types of treatment have been well demonstrated. 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. 

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 condition. Like patients who take daily blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease medications, patients with OUD take MAT to lead their healthiest lives. 

To learn more about Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone), 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

Substance use disorder is defined as a chronic but treatable condition.[1] This means relapse is common and part of the natural course of this condition for many people. 

MAT has been proven to help prevent relapse [2]. MAT eases drug cravings, and helps patients stabilize so they are able to focus on therapy and other lifestyle changes to help support their ongoing recovery. 

In one study of patients not on MAT, up to 90% relapsed to drug use within a year. More than 60% of people returning to treatment after a relapse wanted to use MAT during their next attempt at abstinence.[3] MAT given in the first twelve months of abstinence reduces relapse risk and lowers medical costs.[4]

MAT is a safe treatment option for pregnant patients

Treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) during pregnancy has better outcomes for both the mother and baby than untreated OUD. 

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 to treat Neonatal abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in which babies are born chemically dependent on opioids. 

On the other hand, while the long term outcomes data for babies whose mothers are treated with MAT is still understudied, most experts strongly support use of MAT during pregnancy as safer for mothers than untreated OUD. 

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. 

Other Benefits of MAT for OUD 

MAT's impact on opioid cravings is clear, but MAT can also do the following:[5]

  • Keep you alive. Relapsing to drugs after treatment can be deadly. Doses that once got you high could kill you instead, especially once your body loses tolerance after a period of sobriety. Staying on MAT can mean avoiding that relapse risk.

  • Keep you in treatment. The longer you work with your therapy team, the more you'll learn about how to attain and maintain sobriety. MAT can boost your motivation to keep your appointments.

  • Reduce criminal activity. Maintaining a drug habit is expensive, and many people resort to illegal activity to buy drugs. As you stay in MAT, you won't need to buy any street drugs which can help provide financial stability and have been shown to reduce crime rates.

  • Help you stay employed. Drug-related work absences are less likely when you're using MAT. Maintaining employment provides financial stability and improved self efficacy, all important for stable recovery. 

Since MAT tends to keep you in treatment, the medications give you the best opportunity to work on the challenges that keep you from living a full life.[6]

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

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. What Is the Definition of Addiction? American Society of Addiction Medicine. https://www.asam.org/quality-care/definition-of-addiction. Accessed June 2022.
  2. Addiction Is a Chronic Medical Illness. North Carolina Medical Journal. https://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/79/3/163. May 2018. Accessed June 2022.
  3. Perceived Relapse Risk and Desire for Medication Assisted Treatment Among Persons Seeking Inpatient Opiate Detoxification. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4874241/. May 2016. Accessed June 2022.
  4. Relationship Between Buprenorphine Adherence and Relapse, Health Care Utilization and Costs in Privately and Publicly Insured Patients with Opioid Use Disorder. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165853/. 2018. Accessed June 2022.
  5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment. June 2022. Accessed June 2022.
  6. Medication-Assisted Treatment Improves Outcomes for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder. PEW Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2016/11/medication-assisted-treatment-improves-outcomes-for-patients-with-opioid-use-disorder. November 2016. Accessed June 2022.

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