At Shanti Recovery and Wellness, we are big proponents of Medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder (AKA “MAT”). We keep MAT in our arsenal of tools for people seeking recovery from addiction because it works and because we love to see our patients reach their goals, repair their relationships, gain stability in their lives, and reclaim their health.
However, when you’re deciding if MAT is right for you, it’s normal to have questions or even reservations about this form of treatment. There is a lasting stigma against MAT in the community at-large and in the recovery community in particular. There is a surprising amount of misinformation about MAT and how it works.
Today, let’s look at the top 5 myths we encounter about MAT in our practice in Portland, Oregon.
Myth 1 – MAT Replaces One Addiction for Another
We hear this a lot, especially in regards to agonist forms of MAT for opioid addiction, like Buprenorphrine or Methadone. The thinking here goes that, because these medications are also opiates, the patient is just switching from one form of opioids to another one.
In fact, this is not accurate.
There are big differences between MAT medication and street drugs or prescription pain medication. Here’s a few key differences to know:
- MAT medication has a slow onset of action and produces a long-lasting, stable effect in the brain unlike other opiates, which are fast-acting
- Because of this slow onset and stable effect, MAT medications do not provide the “rush” and subsequent “crash” characteristic of other opiates
- MAT medications suppress cravings for opiates, whereas other opiates enhance cravings during the “crash” phase of action
- Unlike other opiates, MAT medications are taken under close medical supervision, with very little risk of overdose and contamination
Myth 2 – There is Only One Kind of MAT Available
Some patients are unaware that there are many different kinds of medication available to help combat addiction.
We prescribe agonist and partial agonist medications like Buprenorphrine and Suboxone but, for patients who want to move away from opiates entirely, we also have opiate-free antagonist medications like Vivitrol and Naltrexone.
These medications block the opioid receptors in your brain from receiving signals sent by opiates. If you use opiates while on antagonist medications, you don’t get “high”—in fact, you don’t feel anything.
Myth 3 – If You Start MAT, You Can Never Stop
Some patients worry that if they start a MAT program that they will never be able to stop again.
While studies have shown that MAT is most effective as a long-term treatment plan, patients always have the option to begin a taper program when they feel they are ready and they have worked to reduce or eliminate stressors in their lives. You are always in control of your own healthcare treatment plan. If you begin a taper program and realize that now is not a good time, you can always reverse course and begin again at a better time.
Myth 4 – MAT Doesn’t Work for Alcohol Use Disorder
This is false.
We have seen great success with Naltrexone for alcohol use disorder. This opioid antagonist works on alcohol just as it does on opiates, blocking the “buzz” of drinking and denying drinkers the psychological and physiological “reward” of alcohol.
Myth 5 – If You Choose MAT, You Have to Go to a Clinic Everyday
If you are doing methadone treatment, then yes, this is usually true, especially when you begin your treatment.
But other slow-release types of MAT can work on the body for more than one day safely with little risk of abuse. For some types of MAT, we only see patients on a weekly or even monthly basis. The frequency of your visits is determined by a number of factors, such as how new you are to the clinic, your level of confidence and comfortability with your dose, your desired level of mental health counseling, and your overall level of health and wellbeing. We work with you and your schedule to determine the appropriate level of contact you have with the clinic.
Understanding the Reality of MAT Helps You Make Informed Healthcare Decisions
We hope these top 5 myths around MAT helped answer some of your initial questions about this reliable treatment option. At Shanti Recovery and Wellness, we always want our patients to feel informed about their options and confident about their treatment plan. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us at (503) 206-8850.