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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Two of the most common types of addictions in the United States are alcohol use disorders and opioid use disorders.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “46.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 16.5 percent of the population) met the applicable DSM-5 criteria for having a substance use disorder in the past year.”[1] Of those 46.3 million people, 29.5 million struggled with alcoholism and 9.2 million had an opioid addiction.[1]

Unfortunately, overcoming addiction to opioids or alcohol is incredibly difficult, and many people relapse even after seeking treatment. However, with comprehensive, evidence-based treatment, anyone can recover. One of the most effective ways to treat alcohol and opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT).


Medication-Assisted Treatment


What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an addiction treatment approach that combines medication with behavioral therapy and group counseling. This type of addiction treatment is beneficial in helping people recover from alcoholism and opioid use disorder.

While some people might reject the idea of using medications to treat an addiction, it’s important to remember that MAT emphasizes participating in therapy and group counseling. The medications are not intended to be a “cure” for addiction, but rather an aid that allows people to fully focus on their recovery.

Benefits of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) include:[2]

  • Improved patient survival
  • Increased retention in treatment
  • Decreased illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increased patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improved birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant

Another thing to be aware of is that MAT can be used during withdrawal and after. If you are participating in a MAT detox program, you will be given tapering medications to soothe your withdrawal symptoms. After detox, MAT medications are used to stop you from experiencing cravings and prevent relapse by making opioids and alcohol ineffective.

How Do MAT Medications Work?

Alcohol and opioid use disorder are both difficult conditions to overcome. During treatment, you are expected to fully immerse yourself in therapy and counseling while you are attempting to cope with cravings. Additionally, detox can feel impossible for anyone, as withdrawal symptoms can cause you to want to return to your substance abuse.

The reason MAT medications are used is to help you fully focus on the other aspects of recovery by preventing withdrawal symptoms or curbing your cravings. Understanding exactly how the specific medications work can help you feel more comfortable with medication-assisted treatment as a whole.


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist.[3] The medication acts as an opioid without fully activating your receptors, preventing you from experiencing a high. Buprenorphine is often used during opioid detox to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal by tricking your brain into thinking it’s getting the drug it craves. Buprenorphine may be sold under the brand name Subutex or it may be prescribed in the form of a sublingual film called Suboxone, which also contains naloxone.

Buprenorphine is also available as a post-detox treatment as Suboxone or Sublocade, an extended-release injection of buprenorphine that can alleviate opioid cravings for up to a month.


Methadone is a full opioid agonist, which means it works in the brain the same way that oxycodone or morphine would.[4] This medication is used during opioid detox to prevent you from experiencing cravings. However, it is considered habit-forming when abused.

Because methadone can get you high, it is only administered under the direct supervision of a medication-assisted treatment program.


Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids if you try to abuse them.[4] It also helps stabilize brain chemistry in chronic drinkers, thereby reducing alcohol cravings in recovering alcoholics. Typically, naltrexone is used after detox to prevent cravings and relapse.

Naltrexone is available in the form of a daily pill or a monthly injection known as Vivitrol.


Disulfiram is a medication that prevents alcohol relapse. It is important to note that this medication can only be used after you complete alcohol detoxification. Disulfiram (Antabuse) causes unpleasant side effects (i.e. headaches, nausea, vomiting) when you drink alcohol. It is thought that the medication can prevent relapse by making drinking alcohol less appealing.[6]


Acamprosate is another medication used to prevent relapse among individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder. It can be taken five days after stopping drinking and will begin to take effect about a week after your first dose.[7] Acamprosate works by reducing cravings for alcohol.

Start Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Today

Whether you suffer from alcoholism or opioid addiction, you must consider all of your treatment options. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a great tool that can help you overcome withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse later on in your recovery process. By using medications to prevent cravings, you will be able to fully focus on the therapy and counseling you are participating in.

To learn more about our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program in West Palm Beach, FL, please contact Mandala Healing Center today.


  1. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): SAMHSA Announces National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Results Detailing Mental Illness and Substance Use Levels in 2021, Retrieved June 2023 From
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Medications for Substance Use Disorders, Retrieved June 2023 From
  3. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Buprenorphine, Retrieved June 2023 From
  4. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Methadone, Retrieved June 2023 From
  5. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Naltrexone, Retrieved June 2023 From
  6. Medline Plus: Disulfiram, Retrieved June 2023 From
  7. Medline Plus: Acamprosate, Retrieved June 2023 From