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The Pros + Cons of Medication-Assisted Therapy

What is Medication-Assisted Therapy?

Medication-assisted therapy is also known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This type of treatment is used for individuals who are addicted to drugs, such as opioids. These individuals are given a medication, such as Methadone, to replace the opioid to stop the cravings for the drug. The medication used as a replacement does not have the same effects on an individual so he does not become addicted to it. Taking the medication for addiction once a day is sufficient to prevent cravings.

According to the Psychiatric Times asserts that while there are positives and negatives to MAT, the evidence supporting the beneficial outcomes of MAT far outright the negatives ones. null

The Positives of Medication Assisted Therapy

Medication for addiction treatment stabilizes the individual, which allows him or her to focus on recovery. The individual is able to address the issues that propelled him or her into addiction. Upon enter MAT, each individual is assessed and a plan is created specifically to that individual. The individual has medical oversight the entire time he is part of the MAT. Participating in taking medication for addiction improves overall health, including a decrease in infectious diseases.

An individual’s participation in a MAT program provides a better chance of him having recovery success. They are more likely to utilize vocational counseling and educational assistance. In cases where the individual is in legal trouble, participation in this program may be beneficial in the eyes of the court. 

The Negatives of Medication Assisted Therapy 

MAT is adding medication for addiction treatment to an individual’s system and there is always a chance for side effects from the new medication. Mild side effects may be sweating, stomach ache, and constipation. There may be some more serious side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, slower breathing, sexual dysfunction, and itching. 

Medications Used in MAT

There are three major medications used in MAT. They all have side effects. 

Methadone itself is cheaper but the actual program fees are different per each program. It has a long history of success. It lowers drug use and illegal activity. It has high retention, more than 75 percent over one year. Some of the negatives associated with Methadone are the individual must get the medicine daily, typically early in the morning. Some individuals have had a cardiac arrhythmia. Individuals can combine other medications with it to increase methadone level. It has an incredibly negative connotation associated with using Methadone. 

Buprenorphine has a small chance for overdose. It can be prescribed just like other controlled substances. It can be taken at any time of the day and even twice or three times a day. It can control pain. There is less stigma with Buprenorphine than with Methadone. It will be available via an injection soon, which mean fewer doses. The negative side effects of Buprenorphine are that has to be prescribed by a DEA waivered clinician. An individual must already be in a withdrawal situation, which can take 12 to 36 hours. Buprenorphine is often sold on the street. It is more easily abused because patients can space out dosages intentionally.

XR – Naltrexone calms cravings similar to Methadone and Buprenorphine but removes the fear of withdrawal for individuals. It blocks the use of any kind of opioids and can be injected or taken orally. XR – Naltrexone negatives are that the individual must have gone through a full detox, which takes about seven days, or more. Individuals may have a difficult time finding someone who can dispense XR – Naltrexone. This does not offer any type of pain relief. Individuals are more likely to overdose because this medication lowers the tolerance of the individual.


There are varied opinions as to the value of using medications like Methadone, Buprenorphine, or XR – Naltrexone to assist in recovery programs. Abstaining from drugs, especially opiates, is difficult and MAT can help individuals through that process. These medications only help with a piece of the process. They do not take the place of individual participating in counseling to address the root cause of addictive behavior. Recovery works best when medication-assisted therapy is combined with counseling and other recovery techniques for staying in recovery and not relapsing.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do not be afraid to reach out. Addiction is something to be taken seriously and you can make the first step to recovery by reaching out today! Contact us to speak to an addiction professional and to learn more.

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