Innovative Solutions For Treatment

Substance use disorders are complex, and as a result require innovative solutions for treatment and the pathway to recovery. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) refers to the use of medications in treatment, in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies, enabling clients to reach a sustainable long term recovery.

a young woman discusses medically assisted treatment with a doctor

MAT

MAT is often used to treat addictions to opioids, such as heroin and prescription pills like oxycodone that contain opioids. The medications prescribed during MAT vary depending on the type of substance abuse disorder in question, the severity of the addiction, and the client’s mental health condition. Treatment can include antidepressants, methadone, Subutex, naltrexone implants (Vivitrol), and Antabuse.

Our leading clinicians carefully tailor a client’s medication assisted treatment based on the individual’s needs as all of the medications used cater to different issues and produce varying results. For some medications, the aim is to restore neurotransmitter levels in the brain, restoring chemical balance within clients’ brains. Other medications seek to lessen withdrawal symptoms to avoid severe discomfort or death that can result from non-medically assisted detoxification of certain substances.

In other cases, medications seek to sustain sobriety within clients, through a range of methods, including medications that will restore chemical balance in the brain, as well as medications that will make ingesting substances like alcohol extremely uncomfortable for the client. The end goal of medication assisted treatment is to assist in helping people through rehabilitation and onwards to a happier and healthier life.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants can be prescribed during MAT to counteract clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. The pharmaceutical goal is to increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain which control different aspects of our thinking, such as mood and emotion. The prescription of antidepressants is not limited to any certain type of substance use disorder, as their purpose of restoring neurotransmitter levels in the brain can be useful for different disorders and individuals.

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Methadone

Having been the most popular choice to combat opioid use disorders for decades, methadone is a well proven medication that can help curb opioid addiction. Methadone is usually taken orally and is safe to use indefinitely while stopping opioid use, provided it is used properly. In cases of severe addiction, quitting without medication can lead to severe withdrawals, so when prescribed, methadone is used daily during the detoxification process.

Subutex

Buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Subutex, is used for opioid addiction once withdrawal symptoms have begun. Subutex comes in tablets or films which are dissolved under the tongue. The goal of this medication is to suppress and reduce cravings for opioids, with high doses making it almost impossible to feel the effects of further opiates.

Subutex must be administered when the client is already in withdrawal, otherwise it can put them into a severe instantaneous withdrawal. This is why it is recommended that a client is induced onto this in a controlled environment.

Naltrexone Implants (Vivitrol)

A naltrexone implant is placed under the skin which releases over a period of several months and blocks the user from feeling the effects of any opiate. Unlike with other medications where a client can accidentally miss a dose, forget an appointment, or skip a dose in order to revert to their addiction, these implants work for months at a time with no additional effort. Other medications may only work for a few days at a time, but naltrexone implants slowly release, relieving the pressure of remembering each dose.

Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

Antabuse

When alcohol is consumed, the body metabolizes it into something called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a toxic substance that is responsible for many of the poor feelings and hangover symptoms users may experience after a night of heavy drinking.

Antabuse is a medication commonly used to treat alcoholism. It interferes with the metabolization process of alcohol in the body by stopping the oxidation of acetaldehyde into acetic acid. Instead it causes a build-up of acetaldehyde which is 5 to 10 times greater than what would be normal after drinking alcohol. Antabuse offers an incentive not to drink, because if someone who is using Antabuse drinks, their body will fail to break it down in a natural way and will cause extreme discomfort.

Rather than supplement their physical need for alcohol with smaller amounts of a similar substance, Antabuse is a physical and psychological deterrent for drinking alcohol. Anyone who is willing to try Antabuse needs to be aware of the consequences of what can happen if they drink alcohol. Some foods, like vinegar, also need to be avoided to ensure no discomfort occurs.

Side effects of drinking alcohol while taking Antabuse include:

  • Nausea
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Respiratory issues
  • Muscle aches
  • Hyperventilation

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