Feb 13, 2020 | By Rick Turner

5 Myths About Medication Assisted Treatment That Keep Stigma Afloat


With the opioid epidemic plaguing the country in the last decade, it’s clear there’s been an imminent need for addiction and medical professionals to provide alternative forms of treatment. However, when it comes to traditional substance abuse disorder treatment, there appears to be many myths and stigmas surrounding new practices, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Though, such inaccuracies, antiquated belief systems, and lack of education about MAT can keep stigma afloat and deny those who continue to struggle, another approach to find recovery. Behind the scope of these beliefs lies a solidifying truth we’re about to break down. There are many paths to addiction, and Medication Assisted Treatment is only one.

MAT is Trading One Addiction for Another

Medication Assisted Treatment is defined as the use of medications combined with counseling and other therapies. While the goal of MAT is true harm reduction, it also is used to stabilize patients who would otherwise be unable to live productive lives without opioids. According to the Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 43, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the goal of MAT is reducing or eliminating the use of illicit opioids and the problematic use of prescription drugs,” ultimately challenging the myth of substitution.

In fact, in September 2018, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams called for FDA-approved medications in conjunction with behavioral and group therapy to treat opioid addiction. “Unfortunately, stigma has prevented many sufferers and their families from speaking about their struggles and from seeking help. The way we as a society view and address opioid use disorder must change — individual lives and the health of our nation depend on it,” he wrote in the statement.

MAT Is For The Weak

In today’s world, Medication Assisted Treatment is the recommended treatment for opioid addiction. Backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple other agencies, they all concur that addiction is a medical disease in which MAT has and continues to help prevent overdose and death. While there are few that are able to quit using opioids on their own, many go through cycles of brief periods of recovery and fall back into relapse. MAT combined with therapy and behavioral interventions can aid in bridging the gap to recovery.

MAT Is Supposed to Be Short Term

According to research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), those who stay on MAT for at least 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success. While those with long-term abstinence can eventually taper down to complete abstinence under a physician’s direction, while paired with therapy, there is no evidence to suggested to support benefits from cessation.

MAT is Not Effective

Medication-Assisted Treatment doesn’t cure addiction or substance-abuse disorder, though it can certainly aid to help alleviate cravings, and facilitate recovery from addiction. Similar to insulin for diabetes that helps patients manage their disease and improve quality of life, Medication Assisted treatment is an aid to manage addiction. While you’re not necessarily cured, it helps alleviate symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Can Increase Overdose Risks

There are currently three approved medications under MAT. As an opioid antagonist, MAT helps prevent overdoses from occurring, and should be used with abstinence from other opioids. Some medications including Naltrexone prohibit one from achieving the euphoric effects of opioid addiction.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a medical disease, and while not curable, it is treatable and shouldn’t be taken lightly. While each person’s recovery is different, each person’s way to gain sobriety varies. Medication Assisted Treatment is a proven way to find recovery and its life saving effects shouldn’t be underestimated.

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