How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work?

How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work?

MAT provides a whole patient approach to treatment for addiction.

Early recovery can be challenging, especially when someone’s withdrawal symptoms are severe. Powerful cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to stay sober. Consequently, one tool many detox centers use (including Briarwood Detox Center) is medication assisted treatment.

What Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines medication assisted treatment (MAT) as “the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.”1 These medications work to relieve the physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body.

In addition, the medications used in medication assisted treatment are all approved by the FDA. MAT programs are clinically driven and individually tailored to meet each client’s needs. Though research shows MAT combined with behavioral therapy can help successfully treat addiction and improve some people’s chance of maintaining sobriety, it may not be right for everyone. 

Related post: How to Help Someone With An Opioid Addiction

Types of Medication Assisted Treatment

Contrary to what some people may believe, MAT does not just replace one drug with another. Instead, it’s an evidence-based treatment method for several types of addiction. Although medication assisted treatment is most often used to help people recover from opioid addiction, the FDA has approved several medications to treat both opioid and alcohol use disorders. For example, the following medications may be used in MAT programs:

Medications used to treat alcohol addiction

Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are used to treat alcohol addiction. Here’s how each medication helps people maintain their sobriety.

  • Acamprosate works by decreasing cravings and urges to use alcohol.2 
  • Disulfiram prevents your body from properly breaking down alcohol, which makes a person very sick when they drink it.3
  • Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioid receptors, which decreases cravings and urges.4

Medications used to treat opioid addiction

Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are used to treat opioid addiction. Here’s how each of these medications work.

  • Buprenorphine prevents withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings by knocking other opioids in the brain off their receptors and tightly binding to those same receptors to block other opioids.5
  • Methadone changes how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. As a result, it reduces painful withdrawal symptoms and blocks the pleasurable effects of opioid drugs.6
  • Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioid receptors, which decreases cravings and urges.

Additionally, naloxone is another FDA-approved medication that prevents opioid overdose.7

None of the medications listed above will cure opioid or alcohol addiction. However, they can help people recover from addiction and sustain long-lasting sobriety.

What to Expect During MAT

First, if you enroll in a MAT detox program, you can expect to complete a physical and psychological assessment before you begin treatment. This assessment will give your treatment team all the information they need to provide the best care possible.

Then, once your detox treatment begins, your treatment team will administer medications as needed to ensure your safety and comfort, especially once withdrawal symptoms kick in. As a part of your MAT detox program, you’ll also attend individual counseling sessions and group counseling sessions (if and when you are physically able). Additionally, you may participate in other types of evidence-based therapies like therapy or gentle mind-body practices like meditation and yoga.

What Are the Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment?

Ultimately, the goal of medication assisted treatment is to help individuals achieve full recovery from addiction. For example, treatment professionals want clients to be able to live a self-directed and sober life after they complete treatment. MAT plays a vital role in this process and it provides many benefits for people in recovery. Notably, some of the main benefits of medication assisted treatment include:

  • Improving the likelihood that a person will complete a detox program
  • Ensuring less pain and discomfort during detox and withdrawal
  • Increasing the likelihood that a person will stay in treatment longer
  • Reducing the likelihood of relapse
  • Decreasing illegal drug use and associated criminal activities
  • Improving patient survival

Get Effective Detox Treatment at Briarwood Detox Center

Consequently, if you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction or alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to know what type of detox treatment is best. Fortunately, the caring treatment professionals at Briarwood Detox Center can help.

At Briarwood, we offer alcohol detox, opioid detox, and several other types of detox programs. All of our detox programs begin with a comprehensive physical and psychological assessment. This assessment is designed to identify your treatment needs. Additionally, it will help our staff determine what type of detox treatment will give you the best opportunity for long-term sobriety.

To sum things up, if we find that medication assisted treatment is a good fit for you, we’ll walk you through the process so you know what to expect. Then, if you decide it’s what you want to do, we’ll provide thorough, compassionate, and comprehensive care, making sure to adjust your program as needed so you feel comfortable and remain safe throughout detox.

When you’re ready to get help, the caring professionals at Briarwood Detox Center are here to support you. Please call (512) 262-4426 or contact us online to get started.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277871/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3919718/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64042/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4283787/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310658/ 

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