Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. The battle to overcome cravings for drugs and alcohol is sometimes too powerful to combat by oneself. Many people in the early stages of recovery continue to battle an uncontrollable urge to seek and use opioids or alcohol for some time. As a result, most need ongoing care and an evidence-based treatment program that really works. Four of the most common medications used in MAT are Vivitrol, Suboxone, Subutex, and Sublocade.
Vivitrol for medication-assisted treatment was approved by the FDA in 2010 to assist people who are recovering from opioid or alcohol addiction. The drug is a once-monthly injection containing Naltrexone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain, therefore, preventing cravings and relapse. Since the drug fully blocks opioid receptors in the brain, it is virtually impossible for someone to get drunk or high while on Vivitrol.
Furthermore, Vivitrol is non-narcotic – so it doesn’t have any addictive properties, making for a great treatment option. Vivitrol not only treats opioid dependence, but it aids in recovery from alcohol use disorder as well. Vivitrol injections are administered by a nurse or doctor and are used as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program.
Naltrexone also comes in pill form and is used to help with opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. It works in similar ways to Vivitrol, however, patients must take the medication every day rather than once a month.
Suboxone was developed to have the same effects as Subutex, but with lower abuse potential. As a result, the medication contains both buprenorphine and naloxone – an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioid drugs. For instance, if you use opioids while taking Suboxone, it will block the euphoric effects of opioids and may lead to instantaneous withdrawal symptoms. This particular attribute of Suboxone prevents people from abusing the drug. Consequently, Suboxone is the recommended treatment option for opioid dependence by many medication-assisted treatment providers.
Suboxone can be taken during detox as soon as a patient hasn’t taken an opioid for a certain number of hours. The drug reduces physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings to get high. When used in tandem with a comprehensive addiction treatment plan, the medication is highly effective in helping opioid addicts complete their treatment programs and maintain their sobriety.
Subutex, like Sublocade, contains only one active ingredient: buprenorphine. The drug is a sublingual tablet that is dissolved under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream. Buprenorphine can be taken after signs of opioid withdrawal begin to reduce unpleasant symptoms and cravings. There are many advantages to using Subutex, or any form of buprenorphine, including the ability to remain comfortable during detox, prevent relapse and allow individuals to focus fully on therapy instead of thinking about cravings.
Sublocade is a prescription medication that is indicated by research to help with moderate to severe opioid use disorder. The drug contains buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist. Buprenorphine acts as a weak opioid that produces slightly euphoric effects in order to prevent opioid cravings. However, when taken in high doses, the effects of the drug level off, preventing people from misusing the drug. Sublocade, on the other hand, takes medication misuse prevention to the next level. Sublocade is a monthly injection administered in a healthcare setting, so it can’t be abused.
One study looked at people with opioid use disorder for 24 weeks. It found that 30% of people who took Sublocade while enrolled in counseling refrained from using opioids for 80% of the study. Moreover, people with no treatment didn’t use opioids for only 2% of the study. Sublocade helps prevent relapse by reducing cravings, but it can’t be used until a person has already taken a sublingual form of buprenorphine first, like Subutex or Suboxone. Then, they can start the Sublocade treatment regimen.
Benefits of MAT
Research on medication-assisted treatment suggests that it has many benefits, such as:
- Improved patient survival and overdose rates
- Improved positive treatment outcomes
- Increased retention in treatment engagement
- Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
- Decrease in health risk behaviors (e.g., sharing needles)
- Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
Medication-Assisted Treatment at Comprehensive Wellness Centers
At Comprehensive Wellness Centers in South Florida, our medical staff works collaboratively with our clients to create a medication regiment that is most appropriate. We focus on the least effective dose to decrease side effect potential while still maintaining the highest effectiveness of the medication. Our medication-assisted treatment program not only provides medication to treat a person’s physical addiction, but we also provide counseling and social support to treat the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction as well.