The road to recovery from addiction can be difficult. If you or someone you love suffers from addiction problems, the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine is here to help. With our Medication-Assisted Treatment programs, we can help those who are addicted to opioids and alcohol to start their journey towards sober living. We provide comprehensive programs of medication and therapy-based treatments.
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment (also referred to as MAT) is a method for treating substance use disorders that combines medication with behavioral therapy. All medications used are FDA-approved, and when administered alongside counseling and/or behavioral therapies, they provide a well-rounded approach to attaining and maintaining recovery, without the unpleasant symptoms.
One of the most common medications is Suboxone, which contains buprenorphine, and which users take orally. Another popular treatment option is Vivitrol, which is available in injection or pill form. Vivitrol can help to treat both opioid addiction and alcohol dependence. When taking either of these medications, you should always follow the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider.
It's important to know that medication-assisted treatment is not merely replacing one addictive substance with another, as critics of MAT have tried to claim. Instead, the MAT program treats the effects of addiction comprehensively, dealing effectively with the physical difficulties of overcoming drug dependence through medication in tandem with other therapies. We believe that by removing the physical and mental side effects caused by opioid withdrawal, patients can make much better progress and maintain sobriety.
Who Benefits from Medication-Assisted Treatment?
MAT can successfully treat a range of different substance issues. These include addictions to alcohol and tobacco, but MAT is more common for treating patients addicted to opioids. Opioid use disorders (OUD) entails patterns of opioid use over a sustained period, leading to severe distress or physical impairment.
Opioids - also known as narcotics - come in many different forms, and they may be either prescription medications (usually prescribed as painkillers) or street drugs such as heroin. Opioids alter the chemistry of the brain, leading to drug tolerance, which in turn means that the user needs to increase the dose over time to achieve the same effect. Taking high doses of opiates over a sustained period leads to dependence and addiction. The body experiences extreme withdrawal when the user ceases from taking them.
Common opioids include:
The side effects and cravings that opioid users get when they stop using the substance are incredibly intense and challenging to overcome, which is why so many patients in recovery relapse when proper support is not in place. MAT for opioid use disorders can help control:
- Withdrawal symptoms: When an opioid user stops using opioids, they feel seriously ill and experience intense withdrawal symptoms. These occur due to the body's dependence on the drug, without which it can no longer cope.
- Cravings: Intense cravings occur when those who are addicted to opioids stop taking them regularly. The cravings make it difficult for the recovering addict to quit, even if they "taper off" by gradually using less of the drugs.
- Dangerous effects on health:/b> In the most severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. Even when they are not, the impacts of withdrawal on the body can be severely damaging.
Medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid addictions can prevent both withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Our programs also involve professional monitoring of the detox period to ensure the patient's life and health are safe. As a holistic approach, MAT stops users from being in danger when they cease using opioids.
What Are the Medications Involved in the Treatment?
At the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, we offer two different treatment programs and services with MAT: Suboxone and Vivitrol. These medications can aid recovery and combat the extreme physical difficulty of resisting cravings and overcoming withdrawal symptoms, which otherwise hamper opioid addiction recovery.
Suboxone is the brand name of a prescription drug that has FDA approval for clinical opioid use disorder treatment. Patients can take this as part of our MAT treatment or as a detox method. Suboxone contains two drugs: buprenorphine and naloxone. When taken orally, it can block the effects of other opioids.
Buprenorphine works by blocking the effects of other narcotics. It mimics the effects that opioids have on the body, reducing an individual's cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Naloxone, the other composite drug, is an opioid antagonist that fights the effects that opioid abuse has on the body.
Unlike other available treatments for opioid abuse, your doctor can prescribe Suboxone. You don't have to seek an addiction treatment center to access it. However, without an active treatment program that combines other therapies along with medication treatment, the prescription alone is unlikely to lead to recovery. The higher rates of successful recovery and sobriety in MAT are why we recommend only taking Suboxone as part of a comprehensive recovery program.
The other drug we use as part of our MAT programs is Vivitrol, which is the brand name for the drug naltrexone. When delivered as an injection, it can block the effects of opioids on the body. The dose goes into a muscle and is administered in the office by your physician every 30 days.
The primary purpose of treatment with Vivitrol is to prevent a relapse of drug use. Because it works by blocking the feelings of relief, euphoria, and well-being that users get from taking opioids, the medication stops the user feeling the need to continue taking the opioid. It is also effective in treating alcohol abuse, working similarly to how it does in opioid addiction. It reduces the urge to drink alcohol.
You should note that Vivitrol is not a cure for either alcoholism or drug addiction, but it is a robust method of reducing urges for these substances and lessening the effects significantly if not all together if the individual happens to attempt to use alcohol or opioids. When used as part of a thorough treatment program, it can aid users on the road to recovery. You should be aware that you cannot receive a Vivitrol injection if you are still using opioids, as this could cause sudden and severe withdrawal symptoms.
Are There Any Side Effects to These Treatment Methods?
All medications pose the risk of side effects, from mild to severe. It's crucial that you are aware of these before you begin MAT and report any more severe or persistent symptoms to a medical practitioner immediately.
You may experience some side effects when you start your Suboxone treatment. Common side effects from Suboxone treatment include:
- body aches
- rapid heart rate
- sore tongue/redness in the mouth
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- back pain
Many of these common side effects will go away within the first few days to a week. If they persist or continue to get more severe, talk to your healthcare provider.
It's not common to experience severe side effects from Suboxone, but they do occur in some cases. You or a loved one should immediately contact a doctor or healthcare professional if you suffer any of the following or call 911 if you feel your symptoms are life-threatening:
- breathing problems
- severe allergic reaction
- severe withdrawal symptoms
- liver damage
- dependence on the drug
Please note that Suboxone is an addictive substance in itself. Because it has opioid effects, long-term use can lead to dependence on the drug, which could lead to abuse or misuse. Suboxone abuse can cause overdose and dangerous side effects, primarily if used along with alcohol, other opioids, or benzodiazepines. These risks are another reason we only recommend using it as part of a structured program.
When you begin taking Vivitrol, you may experience some side effects. These may last from a few days to a week, but they shouldn't persist throughout your treatment. These effects include:pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injection
- muscle cramps
- nasal congestion
- appetite changes
Severe side effects from Vivitrol are less common, but it's essential to know what they are and to bring them to the immediate attention of your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience them. These side effects include:
- difficulty breathing
- severe allergic reaction
- swelling in the face, lips, tongue or throat
At the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, we believe that Medication-Assisted Treatment could change your life for the better if you're struggling with addiction. We understand that overcoming the withdrawal symptoms and side effects of quitting opioids can be extremely challenging, which is why we offer MAT as one of our recovery services.
MAT can help prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to give them up and avoiding putting your life and body at risk. When combined with counseling and therapy, treatment with Suboxone or Vivitrol substantially increases the likelihood that patients will overcome their addiction for the long term.
You don't have to go through the recovery process alone. Our trained physicians and recovery team are here to make recovery a possibility for everyone. If you want to talk to an expert or find out more information about the process of MAT, contact the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine. We're here to help.