Feb 24, 2023

The Effectiveness of MAT in Treating Opioid Addiction

Mediation Assisted Treatment is one of the most effective treatment options for opioid addiction. It can help with the patient’s withdrawals, cravings, and long-term recovery potential.

What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is a highly complex and chronic substance use disorder, a medical disorder characterized by the misuse or abuse of drugs in the opioid family. Commonly abused drugs during opioid addiction include fentanyl, heroin, and the countless prescription opioids on the market. 

Opioid addiction is a growing problem in the US and has even reached the many sleepy corners of Massachusetts. The addiction causes significant changes in the addict’s behavior, personality, appearance, and health. It can take a considerable toll on the friends and family of the addict as well. This eventually leads to effects felt throughout the community.

The Opioid Epidemic

It’s not uncommon to hear our nation’s opioid problem referred to as “the opioid epidemic,” and this is no understatement. The term opioid epidemic refers to the rapid, even meteoric, rise in opioid misuse and abuse, often leading to addiction and overdose. 

In many ways, the opioid epidemic has become a significant national crisis, and this crisis is destroying individuals, families, and entire communities across the state and the rest of the US. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70,000 people died from opioid overdose in the US in 2021. 

The Importance of Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction

The most important thing for those struggling with active addiction is to find an effective treatment for their disorder. Without professional addiction treatment, long-term opioid addiction can have significant negative health effects and the potential for overdose and even death. Effective treatment for opioid addiction starts with just asking for help. 

Effective treatments are integrated into the treatment plan with professional help. This includes many evidence-based practices, harm reduction, and relapse prevention education. This helps provide a holistic approach to healing the behavioral and medical issues resulting from addiction. It also allows patients to understand their condition and manage it more competently. This can eventually lead to a stronger recovery and improved overall quality of life.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive treatment method for overcoming opioid addiction that involves blending specific medications and counseling, and behavioral therapies. Medication-assisted treatment is highly effective in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) or addiction to opioids. 

The effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment is vast. It can improve the treatment outcome for opioid addiction and significantly reduce the risk of relapse for recovering opioid addicts. There is also evidence that it can reduce the risk of overdose, a risk related to relapsing, and results from the lowered tolerance of those in recovery. Many leading healthcare organizations formally endorse MAT as a highly evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction.

How MAT Works & Its Advantages

MAT works by using medication to block the effects of opioids, both positive and negative, from taking hold in the brain. This reduces cravings for opioids while in early recovery and helps to manage the uncomfortable and sometimes even painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

The treatment can be adapted to various settings, addiction profiles, and patient needs. MAT is a component of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. Overall, MAT is a powerful way to increase treatment retention and build a stronger recovery sooner. 

MAT Medications

Currently, medical professionals use four medications for MAT and opioid overdose situations. The first three help facilitate MAT, and the final medication is used in emergency overdose situations. They have all been FDA-approved. Each medication works differently to help different patients more effectively manage their addiction and recovery. 


Medical professionals commonly use buprenorphine in MAT to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Classified as a partial agonist, it binds with opioid receptors but doesn’t create the same effect as drugs like heroin. It comes in tablet form, sublingual tablets or film, and a long-acting injection.


Methadone is another medication very common to MAT and harm reduction programs. It is a full agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors but to a lesser extent than full opioid compounds. This makes it ideal for reducing cravings and for eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is only dispensed via medical professionals and comes in a tablet or liquid.


In MAT, medical professionals use naltrexone to block the pleasurable effects of opioids and reduce the intense urges to use the drug while in detox. It is an antagonist which blocks opioids from binding with receptors in the brain and prevents them from giving the user the desired effect. Starting treatment with Naltrexone can increase long-term sobriety odds. 


Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It reduces cravings for opioids while in recovery. Buprenorphine helps with cravings and withdrawals. In contrast, naloxone prevents enjoyable opioid effects and reduces the chance of misuse or relapse.

The Effectiveness of MAT in Treating Opioid Addiction

Overall, MAT is highly effective for treating opioid addiction. It has increased positive treatment outcomes and treatment retention in general. Medication-assisted treatment helps to reduce the risk of overdose in those participating in treatment. It takes a decidedly evidence-based approach to help individuals overcome their opioid addictions. MAT is endorsed by organizations like (SAMHSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Where to Find Effective MAT Treatment

Massachusetts Center for Addiction offers effective medication-assisted treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, getting help as soon as possible is important. Reach out today to speak to an admissions expert about your treatment needs. 





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