Few public health threats have ever been more serious than the opioid epidemic. From the extreme addictiveness of these drugs to their highly detrimental health effects to their close relationship to heroin, opioids have a devastating impact. Unfortunately, because they are so addictive, it can be extraordinarily difficult to stop using them. Medication-assisted treatment offers a solution to those struggling with these devastating drugs. By controlling withdrawal symptoms, this treatment makes it both easier and safer to stop using opioids for good.
The Art of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Also known as MAT, medication-assisted treatment involves treating those who have addictions by administering a drug that resembles the addictive substance in some ways, but is safer and easier to control. This method can be used to treat a number of different substance issues, including alcohol and tobacco addictions, but it is especially common for those addicted to opioids, as it can help patients control:
- Cravings- Those who are addicted to opioids experience intense cravings when they do not use them regularly. This makes it difficult for them to quit, even if they “taper off” by gradually using less of the drugs.
- Withdrawal Symptoms- When those who are addicted to opioids stop using them, they can often feel seriously ill. These symptoms occur because their body adjusted to the drug, and now cannot cope with not having it.
- Dangerous Health Effects- In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be deadly. Even when they’re not, they have a severe negative effect on the patient’s health.
Medication-assisted treatment curtails both cravings and withdrawal symptoms, so patients won’t be in danger when they stop using opioids and will have an easier time giving them up. When combined with scheduled therapy, such treatments significantly increases the odds that a patient will successfully overcome their opioid addiction for the long haul.
Medication-assisted treatment for opioids comes in many different forms. The most common medications are naltrexone, which is taken by pill or injection and is also effective for treating alcohol dependence; methadone, which is intended for patients who are addicted to opioids in high doses; and buprenorphine, which has a “ceiling effect” and is thus one of the safest treatment options. When taking any of these medications, make sure to follow your physician’s instructions to the letter.
It’s important to be clear that medication-assisted treatment is not “replacing one addiction with another,” as some critics like to claim. Rather, it is treating the effects of addiction in a comprehensive way, by taking into account the extreme physical difficulty of overcoming cravings and withdrawal symptoms. For more information on what features and best practices in a software solution support MAT, contact AZZLY® today.