Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program for Opioids
In recent years, opioid abuse and opioid addiction have become increasingly problematic public health concerns. Many experts have labeled the issue an epidemic.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. died from an opioid overdose in 2019 alone. This number is anticipated to rise in the coming years.
Beyond being a serious national health crisis, opioid use disorders (OUDs) are negatively affecting the social and economic well-being of Americans across the United States. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the abuse of prescription opioids costs the nation upward of $78.5 billion annually. This total is the result of:
● Addiction treatments
● Criminal justice interventions
● Lost economic productivity
There are many treatment options available for dealing with opioid abuse or an opioid use disorder. Arguably, the most effective are in-patient programs that include a dual focus on mental health and behavioral health standards.
Treatment and recovery options frequently involve counseling and behavior therapies. Treatment facilities may also implement a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for opioids.
Before deciding whether a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program is the most productive choice, it’s essential to understand how opioids work. Recognizing the path to addiction can make it easier to choose methods to treat opioid use disorders more effectively.
What Exactly Are Opioids?
The human body is home to a collection of opioid receptors. These are located across the central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. They’re also found within the peripheral sensory neurons.
Opioid receptors are part of a complex system in the body. This system is responsible for managing pain, addictive behaviors, and responses to reward.
Opioids are a drug designed to interact directly with these critical opioid receptors. The primary purpose behind opioids is to reduce pain.
The sensation of pain diminishes through opioid use via muscle relaxation. It’s common for those using opioids to experience an associated sense of euphoria.
When ingested, opioids can slow both the breathing rate and heart rate. That means they can effectively be used in sedation efforts.
Some opioids are categorized as prescription medications to treat pain. Common prescription opioids include but aren’t limited to:
A second category of opioids considered illicit drugs also exist. This group includes both synthetic fentanyl and heroin. This type is significantly more potent than prescription opioids.
On average, fentanyl is anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than prescription morphine. It’s responsible for a vast number of opioid overdose deaths across the U.S. each year.
What Are Prescription Opioids Used to Treat?
In the vast majority of cases, prescription opioids get prescribed to patients as painkillers. Sometimes, opioids get prescribed following an injury. They’re commonly prescribed after major surgery, as well.
Opioids can prove helpful in reducing pain associated with specific treatments. That is particularly true across some cancer treatments patients undergo.
What Are the Risks Associated with Opioids?
In addition to reducing symptoms of pain, opioids provide an enhanced sense of relaxation across the body. This level of relaxation and euphoria is the “high” most people get addicted to. It’s this sensation that can provoke people to use opioids for non-medical purposes.
Prescription opioids are generally considered safe when used according to physician regulations. They are designed to be effective over short periods for specific pain levels.
Problems and risks quickly arise when opioids are misused. Opioid’s interaction with opioid receptors makes them a highly addictive substance. The line between occasional opioid use and addiction can blur quickly.
People using opioids can find themselves dependent more quickly than expected by simply taking the medication outside of prescription requirements. That could be as simple as altering the dosage amount or increasing daily dosage numbers.
Taking opioids exclusively for a high can quickly become addictive and dangerous. It often leads to a user taking prescriptions that don’t belong to them.
Opioids are commonly swallowed in pill form but can also be crushed or dissolved in liquids. As dependency increases, an addict may resort to injecting or snorting opioids to achieve a quicker high.
As opioids bind to opioid receptors in the body, they effectively block pain signals from reaching the brain. Simultaneously, dopamine is released. The dopamine rush hooks the user and can lead them to seek that feeling at a more enhanced level over time.
As opioid dosages increase, so does the risk to the brain and body. Some of the associated risks include:
● Slowed breathing
Of all of these risks, slowed breathing tends to be the one with the most dangerous ramifications. If breathing slows too significantly, hypoxia can set in. This condition reduces vital oxygen flow to the brain.
In the long term, hypoxia can have dangerous effects. Neurological and psychological implications can include brain damage or coma. At its worst, hypoxia can lead to death. That is particularly common among fentanyl and heroin users.
What Is an Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)?
Initially, many people who use opioids to treat pain feel they can easily control their impulses or use. Over time, this proves to be a drastically unattainable reality.
That is because once opioid use has transitioned into an opioid use disorder, it’s considered a disease. A disease goes far beyond an individual’s ability or willpower. It’s chemically unlikely to simply stop craving a substance or chasing a high without medical assistance. Instead, it requires a specialized recovery program that takes mind and body into consideration.
Intervention is critical when symptoms of withdrawal become part of an opioid use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety and nausea, insomnia, agitation, hot flashes, sweating, and muscle cramps.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and teary eyes are also common withdrawal symptoms addicts experience. These symptoms often lead to enhanced drug cravings.
What Is a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program for Opioids?
As the number of substance use disorders continues to rise, recovery centers see the many benefits of implementing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs for opioids.
A medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for opioids is an evidence-based approach to treat other substance use disorders. It involves the use of medications alongside behavioral therapies and counseling. The goal is to pave a path to recovery through a whole-patient-based treatment option.
It’s important to note that all medications used must be FDA-approved within a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for opioids. These programs are driven by clinical research and customized to each patient’s particular needs.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs for opioids are helpful when the patient suffers from an addiction to heroin, fentanyl, or prescription pain relievers. The comprehensive approach of the program is designed to:
● Normalize body functions
● Level out brain chemistry
● Relieve cravings
● Block euphoric effects
These positive effects help an addict’s health physically and mentally. It also reduces the likelihood of an overdose.
The Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs for Opioids
One of the most evident benefits of this program is the option to tailor the process to each individual patient. It’s a more comprehensive approach to opioid use disorders and has prompted a reduction in the need for these patients to participate in detox services.
Ultimately, these programs are designed with a full recovery in mind. A medication-assisted treatment program for opioids provides an addict with tools and resources to regain a self-directed lifestyle.
Additionally, this type of program also provides an improvement in the areas of:
● Treatment center retention rates
● Illicit opioid use
● Criminal activity involvement
● Successful employment
● Patient survival
Beyond these improvement factors, a combination of medication and therapy frequently contributes to a reduced risk of opioid addicts contracting HIV. It can also be a positive force in reducing the chances of an opioid addict contracting Hepatitis C or relapsing.
Medications Used Within MAT Programs
Within the parameters of medication-assisted treatment programs for opioids, doctors use several FDA-approved medications to help patients. These medications are administered to the patient slowly and gradually to relieve withdrawal symptoms and curb psychological cravings. They are helpful in achieving the more important evidence-based treatment goals of the program overall, such as physical sobriety and long-term recovery.
Opioid dependence medications commonly used include methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. All three drugs are safe for long-term use. They’re used to counter the detrimental effects of heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and more.
When paired with customized therapies, these medications can change the lives of those suffering from opioid use disorders. They play a critical role in the treatment plan and offer new solutions to a growing national health issue.
Reach Out Today
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the compassionate team at The Haven New England is here to help. We offer multiple treatment types and levels of care to help patients get the lives they love back on track.
Reach out today to learn more about our treatment options (including medication-assisted treatment) and the admission process. If you want to speak with a representative, feel free to give us a call. We want to help you start your journey to long-term recovery.