Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Treatment that utilizes medication can help recovering individuals in remaining in treatment longer, lengthening the duration of sobriety while setting patients up for successful recovery. This sequence of treatments is referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Professionals typically combine MAT with therapy for alcohol and opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol and drug abuse can help people to safely end substance use in their lives.

Many people think that using prescription medication for addiction treatment is exchanging one dependence for another. However, studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) state otherwise. The effectiveness of FDA-approved medications coupled with addiction treatment therapies can actually be beneficial throughout the rehab process.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Use?

Dependence and the recovery process are generally characterized by powerful cravings to use even upon fulfillment of detox and treatment. These cravings could conflict with therapy and enhance the risk of relapsing. Fortunately, specific prescription medications have been hugely successful in helping individuals in recovery to combat these cravings and sustain sobriety.

The blend of medications with treatments that educate patients on how to control triggers and cravings for relapse on a cognitive level encourages lengthened duration of sobriety.

The medication-assisted treatment approach has been shown to:

  • Promote a patient’s sobriety
  • Increase the recognition of therapy
  • Reduce opiate usage and other substances
  • Increase patient’s chances of obtaining and sustaining employment
  • Improve birth outcomes amongst women who are pregnant and suffer from substance use disorders

Various Types of Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

MAT uses numerous prescription medications to treat two particular substance addictions: alcoholism and opioid abuse. Listed below are some of the more generally prescribed drugs used for alcohol or opioid use disorder.


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that is used during the treatment of opioid use. If taken correctly, buprenorphine-containing prescription drugs can relieve uncomfortable opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Buprenorphine is effective in the treatment of opioid use along with the treatment of opioid dependence. This opioid agonist is known by various names.

Buprenorphine only:

  • Butrans
  • Buprenex

Buprenorphine and naloxone:

  • Zubsolv
  • Bunavail
  • Suboxone

Buprenorphine could produce some adverse side effects, which might include fever, irritability, vomiting, nausea, constipation, muscle aches, and sleeping problems.


Probuphine was created to help patients recover from opioid addiction by mitigating withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing a euphoric high. By stabilizing patients and decreasing the cravings linked with opioid addiction, they’ll become better prepared to engage in therapy and treatment.

Probuphine offers benefits over other medications like methadone:

  • Probuphine doesn’t require a daily dosage, as it delivers a low dose consistently.
  • This drug cannot be problematic if the implant remains in position.


Methadone is a complete opioid agonist, which implies it produces comparable effects to different opioids. This drug helps to mitigate drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms for a painkiller or heroin addiction.

Some of the side effects of methadone use could include, vomiting, headache, sweating, dry mouth, mood swings, sleep disorders, stomach ache, loss of appetite, and decreased sex drive.

These side effects could be troubling but seldom present any hazard. Individuals should get medical help promptly should any of these more critical effects appear: rash, seizures, itching, hallucinations, face swelling, breathing complications, or severe drowsiness.


Naloxone is an opioid adversary, which indicates it prevents the action of opioids at the receptor positions – converting or restricting fatal overdoses. As a conceivably life-saving intervention, both loved ones and those with opioid dependence users must recognize how naloxone operates and how to use it in the case of an overdose.

It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an opioid overdose so naloxone can be administered, if available. Signs of an opioid overdose may include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Losing consciousness
  • Becoming unresponsive


Naltrexone works to treat patients suffering from opioid or alcohol addiction. This drug acts by hindering the opioid receptors. It is critical to realize that naltrexone reduces your tolerance to opioids, so relapse can be hazardous if the user returns to the amount they previously used. Overdose and fatal respiratory distress could occur as a consequence.

When it comes to the treatment of opioid use, it’s important to know how it may affect one’s body. Side effects that are related to naltrexone treatment might include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, and joint or muscle pain.


Disulfiram helps to restrict drinking habits by evoking bothersome effects when a person consumes alcohol, curbing the urge to drink. The undesirable effects, which occur roughly 10 to 30 minutes after an individual consumes alcohol, include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Heart trembles
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness


Acamprosate is another form of medication that can work to hinder relapse while promoting sobriety in alcoholics. Studies from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment state that alcohol abuse may lead to neurological adaptations in numerous neurotransmitter systems, like glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

When the brain becomes used to alcohol in the body, a new “equilibrium” is established and maintained once alcohol is consumed. Once alcohol use abruptly slows or stops entirely, the balance could tilt towards a hyper-excitatory situation.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms will include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

Some traditional side effects of acamprosate use might include diarrhea, dizziness, flatulence, headache, itchiness, muscle deficiency, or nausea.

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The Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

While addiction emotionally affects everyone uniquely, this treatment method has shown to be an efficient approach to fighting the disease during the recovery process. Studies show that MAT assists patients in becoming comfortable in recovery by reducing opioid abuse contrasted with other non-medicated methods.

This is due to the ways in which MAT influences the opioid receptors within the brain. These medications can both reduce opioid cravings and assist patients with the mental, physical, and emotional symptoms that occur during withdrawal. This treatment method aids in alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Another reason why addiction treatment programs like this one are so sufficient is due to the education and support rendered by the treatment specialists at outpatient centers. MAT programs focus on the patient’s requirements while also creating a foundation of support from friends, family, peers, and staff to help them remain sober.

Does MAT Substitute One Addiction For Another?

This is a widespread delusion regarding MAT. These programs can alleviate psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms that produce chemical imbalances in the body while providing a secure and controlled amount of medication to conquer opioid abuse. Research shows that when individuals receive the proper dosage, MAT drugs produce no opposing effects on a patient’s physical functioning, mental ability, employability, or intelligence.

Length of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Patients can securely use medication-assisted therapy for months, years, or even the rest of their life. The patient’s treatment plan is designed with their doctor, and intentions to discontinue medication should continuously be consulted before making modifications to their medicines or therapy.

Protocol for Using Medication-Assisted Treatment

Those deciding to start an addiction treatment program will first undergo an intake evaluation by a treatment programs specialist. The intake process will have three principal intentions:

  • Precisely diagnose substance use disorder
  • Assess the severity of substance addiction
  • Evaluate any co-occurring physical or mental health disorders

Once the specialist assesses the patient’s condition, they’ll decide if they’re a good candidate for this type of treatment. SAMHSA states that you are a candidate for this type of treatment if you:

  • Have been diagnosed with an addiction to opioids or alcohol.
  • Are ready to follow prescription directions completely.
  • Do not have physical health concerns that the medication could intensify.
  • Are thoroughly educated on alternative choices.

The patient may not be a nominee for medication-assisted treatment if they have a:

  • History of medication abuse
  • Lack of motivation to become sober
  • Co-occurring substance dependence
  • Substance addiction that can’t be treated with an FDA-approved remedy
  • Critical physical condition, like heart or lung disease, that opioid agonists could elaborate

The Search For New Medications

One of the biggest challenges in MAT is the misuse of prescription medications that help to manage cravings. Some users experience cravings that are so severe that they start to abuse the addiction treatment medication, which hinders pharmacotherapy.

There is a vital necessity for abuse-resistant medicines to ease addiction cravings, and researchers are beginning to find some resolutions. One new medication that has revealed some encouraging effects is named OMS405 made from the biopharmaceutical corporation Omeros.

OMS405 has been linked to a decline in anxiety and cravings in patients with heroin addiction when used with buprenorphine/naloxone. Its effectiveness as a treatment medication increases beyond heroin dependence and has additionally been connected with a decrease of cravings and recovery of the brain of patients addicted to cocaine. While still in clinical tests, these medications are proving to work in addiction treatment programs while providing extensive help for patients looking to get sober.

Addiction Treatment Doesn’t End with MAT

Medication alone is not sufficient enough to help patients obtain and sustain long-term abstinence. Efficient addiction treatment addresses the whole patient and merges the use of:

The use of medications during treatment programs can help patients to continue their sobriety. But behavioral therapies address underlying conditions linked to substance abuse, assist in developing a positive self-image, improve negative thoughts, emotions, and actions, along with teaching and building healthful coping skills. This therapeutic alliance is at the essence of this type of treatment method.

Contact Us Today About Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Addiction

North Jersey Recovery Center helps patients recover from all types of addictive behaviors. These include alcohol addiction, heroin abuse, cocaine abuse, benzodiazepine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. We also work to help those who are suffering from the effects of co-occurring disorders (dual diagnoses).

If you or a loved one is suffering from substance addiction and could benefit from medication-assisted treatment, reach out to our treatment specialists today. Our representatives are available 24/7 to answer the questions you have concerning addiction treatment.

The journey to sobriety isn’t an effortless one to take. But with proper support and an addiction treatment program, it is achievable. Please don’t delay any longer; contact our specialists today, and allow us to get you the answers you seek!