When you use substances for an extended period of time, the pathways created within your brain can actually be changed, which makes recovery a long, difficult process. In conjunction with these therapies, (MAT) medication-assisted treatment in Lehigh Valley is backed by years of research and can provide a safer, whole-patient path to recovery.
Recovering from substance use disorder, or SUD, is an emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging process. For one, you will often need to navigate the relationships that have been damaged by your substance use. Committing to recovery also takes an enormous amount of mental strength and fortitude. However, one of the most challenging aspects of SUD recovery is managing the physical impact that prolonged substance use has had on your body, including facing the hurdles necessitated by a detox.
What Is Medication Assisted Treatment?
Most individuals who struggle with SUD need comprehensive support on their paths to recovery. The substances they used altered their body and brain in ways that can create unique challenges to recovery, including a physical and emotional inability to maintain normal function without the substance. It can also make withdrawals much more severe, with symptoms like headaches, tremors, nausea, and seizures in extreme cases.
Medication-assisted treatment involves the use of approved medications to help treat those symptoms, ease some of the pain associated with withdrawal, and minimize cravings during recovery. Together with counseling, therapies, and other techniques, MAT can be a more thorough, patient-centered approach to the many issues that surround SUD.
Suggested Reading: Pennsylvania Addiction Treatment Resources
Medications Used In MAT
MAT can be beneficial for the treatment of substance use disorder, especially SUD associated with substances like alcohol and opioids. There are different medications associated with each type of MAT program. Some of the most common medications that are used in a MAT program are Naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone. Every medication used in conjunction with MAT is FDA-approved and used to treat specific symptoms caused by specific substances.
Medications for Alcohol Use
Alcohol is a substance used by over 130 million people each year, over 60 million of whom are classified as binge drinkers and nearly 20 million of whom are classified as heavy drinkers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Individuals who struggle with alcohol use disorder can benefit from MAT as a part of their treatment program.
When an individual uses alcohol for an extended period of time, it can have severe effects on them, both physically and mentally. Effects may include an increased risk of stroke, alcoholic hepatitis, and reckless behavior like driving while intoxicated.MAT programs can be effective for people with alcohol use disorder.
The process of beginning this type of treatment is very involved and often requires that the client has not consumed any substance within a certain period of time. Clients must often undergo an echocardiogram and complete detoxification. Once a client has been approved for an MAT program, they are likely to be prescribed one of the following medications.
Medications for Opioid Use
When an individual struggles with opioid use disorder, they can experience many superficial effects ranging from slurred speech and shallow breathing to nausea and extreme drowsiness. Dependence on opioids is classified as a chronic illness, and the effects can last for years.
Treatment for this disorder, as a result, must also be structured so that sustainable and long-term recovery is possible. MAT programs for opioid use disorder can address the personal needs of each client through a combination of individualized medication plans along with individual and group therapies. There are several common medications that are used in MAT programs that treat opioid use disorder.
Major Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Regardless of the medication that is best for your treatment, there are countless benefits of a medication-assisted treatment program. When a personalized plan includes medication to minimize withdrawal and cravings paired with individual and group counseling, it can help make long-term recovery more accessible for individuals who are struggling with SUD. Learn more about the benefits of MAT.
MAT and Behavioral Therapy
One aspect of MAT programs that makes them so effective is the fact that they do not rely only on medication – a concept that is somewhat surprising to many people. Most MAT programs also incorporate behavioral therapy in both individual and group settings. This therapeutic approach encourages people to process their emotions and struggles externally, receive support and guidance from trained and experienced professionals, and walk through their path to recovery with a community of people who understand the struggles they are facing.
Overall, behavioral therapy can help people practice using better, more positive responses to negative thoughts and triggers. With MAT medications relieving withdrawals and cravings and behavioral therapy helping individuals create better responses to stress and triggers, people can truly begin to find long-term recovery.
Stigma Surrounding MAT
Not everyone agrees with or understands the importance of medication-assisted treatment. The goal of any recovery program is to provide individuals who struggle with SUD with a safe, effective, and supportive environment where they are able to create a life of long-term recovery. Stigma against MAT programs hinders individuals on their recovery journey because it provides false or misleading information, does not allow them to connect with helpful resources, and ultimately keeps them from receiving the treatment they need.
Some clients may fear taking other medications, although MAT medications are tightly controlled, and most are not addictive. Others may be concerned about participating in treatment in a specialized medical facility. The most common argument against MAT programs, however, is that clients rely on medications to alleviate SUD without addressing underlying conditions or the negative behavior patterns they've developed.
While it's true that individuals who struggle with SUD may use substances as a way to mask or avoid difficult emotions, MAT medications within the context of an MAT program do not enable avoidance. Effective MAT programs are whole-person-centered. In other words, these programs require clients to participate in a number of therapies designed to manage behaviors, address emotions, and develop coping tools to create a life outside of substance use. Medication allows this work to continue safely and effectively while reducing relapse risk and discomfort.
Recovery Cove for Medication-Assisted Treatment in PA
Meet Dr. Kurt Braun, a Pennsylvania-born doctor with 32 years of family medicine experience, as well as a Board Certified American board of Osteopathic Family Physicians and board eligible in addiction medicine expert. He attended Moravian Collage for his Bachelor’s degree before graduating from Philadelphia Collage of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991 and completing his Family Medicine Residency at Suburban General Hospital.
Dr. Braun is passionate about addiction medicine and loves getting to know each patient on an individual level to ensure they receive the best care possible. He is committed to providing quality care and programming through open communication and close collaboration with the clinical team.
When not practicing, Dr. Braun enjoys spending time with his wife and children.