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Medications for Addiction Treatment

4 min read · 8 sections

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) helps many people recover from certain types substance use disorders (SUDs). If you or someone you care about are struggling with alcohol or opioid addiction, you may be interested in learning more about how MAT can help you make progress in recovery.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers MAT at most of our nationwide treatment facilities. Call us at There, our admissions navigators can help guide you through creating a treatment plan, help you explore your options at AAC, and verify your insurance coverage over the phone.

What Are Medications for Addiction Treatment?

As would be expected given the name, medications are an indispensable element of MAT methods—but they aren’t the only component of such treatment. Instead, MAT entails a combined approach to treat substance use disorders. MAT combines pharmacological treatment (medications) with behavioral treatment that is tailored to a patient’s unique needs. Many people have been helped in recovery through this whole-patient-focused approach.1 In its various forms, MAT may effectively minimize cravings, block some of the rewarding properties of certain substances, and ultimately decrease drinking and continued substance use behavior. The goal of MAT is full recovery; however, MAT has also been shown to:1

  • Increase patient survival rates.
  • Increase treatment retention rates.
  • Decrease criminal activity related to opioid use and other drug use.
  • Increase patients’ abilities to gain or maintain employment.

MAT is a comprehensive approach to treatment; in its various phases, it incorporates strategies to address several components of your life, including vocational issues, medical and mental health concerns, family issues, and legal concerns through monitoring, support, screening, referrals, and counseling.2

MAT was originally designed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) in the 1960s when methadone maintenance was developed as one of the key forms of treatment for this problem. Federally-funded treatment programs emerged in the 1970s; the term “maintenance treatment” (referring to medication-assisted treatment) was first used in the Narcotic Addict Treatment Act of 1974.

In the 1990s, the National Institutes of Health published important recommendations clarifying that opioid addiction was not due to a lack of willpower or a moral failing, but a treatable disorder. This helped further promote the concept of addiction as a medical condition, widened the search for and adoption of MAT options, and may have also helped to reduce some of the stigmas associated with MAT. Soon, other treatments and medications developed, and MAT became more widely used. Finally, accreditation systems for opioid treatment programs (OTPs) helped standardize treatment methods in MAT and ensure high-quality MAT services across the United States.2

MAT may also consist of or occur alongside different behavioral interventions, such as:2

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals identify and change unhelpful behaviors and thoughts about themselves and their addiction.
  • Contingency management (CM) to help individuals stay motivated by providing tangible rewards (like vouchers for goods) for positive changes.
  • Community reinforcement approach (CRA) to help identify the reasons for wanting to make changes in one’s life and find healthier ways of coping with stress and other triggers to misuse substances.
  • Motivational enhancement (ME) to help individuals engage and stay motivated in treatment.
  • Group therapy. This can include a variety of groups, such as psycho-educational, skills development, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal process, or support groups.

Take Our Substance Misuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance misuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance misuse. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

MAT Statistics, Effectiveness, and Goals

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services:5,6

  • 29.5 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder in 2021.
  • 2.6 million of these people received some sort of treatment for their alcohol use.
  • Out of these 2.6 million people, 381,000 received MAT for AUD.
  • 5.6 million people aged 12 or older had an opioid use disorder in 2021.
  • 1.2 million of these individuals received some sort of treatment for their opioid misuse.
  • Out of these 1.2 million people, 887,000 or nearly 73% received MAT for their opioid misuse.
  • 311,531 people received methadone treatment in OTPs in a single-day count in March 2020.
  • 31,864 people received buprenorphine treatment in OTPs in a single-day count in March 2020.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT has been proven to be effective in clinical studies and has been shown to significantly decrease the need for inpatient detox. By reducing the risk of relapse, MAT for opioid use disorder may also lower the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C.1

Confidentiality of MAT and Treatment

Your MAT treatment will be confidential. According to SAMHSA, the Confidentiality Regulation, 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 2, personally identifiable health information relating to MAT treatment must be handled with a higher degree of confidentiality than other medical information.1 This means that a MAT program is generally prohibited from disclosing information that identifies you as having or having had a SUD without your written consent.7

Misconceptions About MAT

People may have the misconception that MAT means substituting one drug for another. This is not the case; MAT drugs are evidence-based, FDA-approved medications that can normalize physiological functioning, restore balance to previously-disrupted brain chemistry, and block the reward associated with continued substance misuse for those in recovery.1

You also might worry that you’re not sober if you use MAT medications. However, FDA-approved medications used under the discretion of a prescribing physician support recovery and sobriety. These medications are not designed to get you high or contribute to continued, compulsive misuse or addiction. Instead, they are intended to help you sustain recovery progress as you work toward long-term sobriety.1

Some people may have concerns about the potential for misuse of MAT medications themselves. However, while opioid agonist treatment medications may have some misuse liability risk, the reinforcing properties are limited when used in adherence with a prescribed treatment schedule. Additionally, medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) are formulated to deter certain types of misuse because doing so would result in blocking some of the rewarding or pleasurable effects of the drug. That means if you misuse them, you won’t experience euphoria or get high, but will instead be at risk of experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.8

Yet another common misconception about MAT is that there’s no proof that MAT is better than abstinence. However, MAT is evidence-based and recommended as the first line of treatment by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, SAMHSA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other organizations.9

Does Insurance Cover MAT Treatments?

Most health insurance plans cover at least a portion of MAT treatment, if not the entirety of MAT treatment. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act states that group health insurance plans are required to provide the same benefits for substance use disorders as they do for medical or surgical care.10 Additionally, 31 state Medicaid FFS programs covered methadone maintenance treatment provided in outpatient OTPs as of May 2013; specific Medicaid requirements about buprenorphine vary by state.9 It’s advisable to consult your insurance provider or plan administrator to verify your specific benefits.

To find out more about whether your insurance may cover rehabilitation or MAT at AAC, use the form below.

How Long Does MAT Last?

Medication-assisted treatment durations vary from one individual to the next, depending on factors such as addiction severity, clinician recommendations, patient wishes, overall health, and the rate of recovery progress. Some individuals may remain on a MAT regimen for years. If, at any point, a decision is reached between you and your doctor to discontinue treatment, you’ll receive assistance with tapering off the medication when the time is right for you.9

How to Find MAT Treatment Near Me

AAC is a leading provider of MAT at our inpatient and outpatient facilities located across the nation. We also specialize in co-occurring disorder treatment and offer individualized treatment plans that are customized to your specific needs. Our expert, compassionate medical staff and team of professional addiction counselors know what you are going through, and they are qualified to provide the best assistance to support you on your path to recovery. Call

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