Using Medication-Assisted Treatment once carried stigma in the recovery community. However, recent research has shown how much these aspects of treatment can save lives. Opioid agonists keep people from relapse and overdose death.
Many people have a lack of understanding about why the drug is useful or how it helps people begin the path to recovery. This stigma can keep people from getting the help they need to stay clean and sober. This is a big gap in the recovery world, unfortunately. A lack of MAT options could mean the difference in recovery versus relapse. Researchers say that one group of MAT options, opioid antagonists, are especially effective when used by people new to recovery.
What Are Opioid Agonists?
Opioid agonists help people with heroin or prescription opioid use disorder abstain from those drugs. In recovery, doctors may prescribe these drugs to reduce the negative effects of withdrawal and cravings.
Contrary to popular belief, these drugs can be used without producing the euphoria of heroin or other opioids that people abuse. Methadone and buprenorphine are often prescribed for these purposes.
Medication-Assisted Treatment is often misunderstood. Some people believe these drugs can produce a high or cause a relapse, but research says this isn’t true. They simply reduce cravings without giving a person a “high”. Withdrawal symptoms are often absent in people who use MAT as a part of their recovery program.
Many addiction programs don’t offer these medications as a standard part of drug treatment due to these misconceptions. The FDA, however, recommends medication as part of the “gold standard” for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
“We know from national studies that in specialty treatment only about 40% of people get some kind of medication treatment. It’s a huge problem and there are multiple barriers to accessing medication treatment”, lead investigator Noa Krawczyk, Ph.D., told Medscape Medical News.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Saves Lives
For people with opioid use disorder, opioid agonists are lifesavers. People who take this type of MAT have an 80% lower risk for opioid overdose death than those who go without. This is because they prevent relapse.
People who relapse after drug treatment are at a higher risk for overdose and death because they begin “where they left off” in many cases.
Treatment programs have begun to use MAT as a tool for clients, but more facilities could using these drugs to help more people get and stay clean and sober.