Since 1949, the 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous has been the dominant way we think about facing and fighting addiction. Many people have successfully used this community- and willpower-based approach to escaping addiction. However, countless others have tried it, and relapsed. With the powerful hold that opioid addiction has on so many people in America, it’s time to face addiction with an equally powerful—and proven—method: medication-assisted treatment (or MAT).
MAT is the practice of using drugs like suboxone and subutex to help people dependent on painkillers gradually ease themselves off their addiction. While these treatments have been available for many years, there is a stigma to relying on these medications to help fight addiction rather than the traditional willpower and community approach of a 12-step program. Here are five benefits to using an MAT approach to ending opioid dependency:
1. MAT is proven to have better results than conventional programs alone.
First, there’s no reason why an MAT approach to fighting addiction can’t work alongside a 12-step program. Rehab centers across the US encourage patients to join 12-step programs, and many of their patients also rely on MAT to help with their addiction. Second, the truth is, MAT programs have been proven to reduce the all-cause mortality rate by 50% or more among addiction patients. This makes MAT programs an important tool to fight opioid addiction.
2. MAT stops withdrawal symptoms so patients can live a normal life.
When people dependent on opioids try to quit, the pains of withdrawal are often intense and debilitating. This can make escaping addiction nearly impossible. MAT drugs like buprenorphine work by stopping the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, making it easier for patients to live a normal life while they wean themselves off of painkillers. This significantly reduces the odds that an addiction patient will relapse.
3. MAT is flexible, allowing medication to be taken at home or in a clinic
MAT programs are not one-size-fits-all. Instead patients may receive the drugs inside a specialized treatment center, or at a pharmacy that allows the patient to take part in the MAT program in their own homes. This added flexibility makes it much easier to continue a normal life while taking part in a proven system to eliminate opioid dependency.
4. MAT offers multiple drugs (like suboxone and buprenorphine) to find what works for you
Older MAT drugs like methadone required regular visits to a clinic, but newer MAT medicines like buprenorphine can be taken to a patient’s home and consumed on a once- or twice-a-day schedule. There is also a medicine called vivitrol that can be taken once a month after patients have completely detoxed. Because not all MAT programs work for everyone, it is helpful to have multiple options to find what’s best.