Myths and Facts about Medication Assisted Treatment
People in recovery often face stigma in all facets of their life- employment, housing, and attitudes of friends and family. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat addiction and sustain recovery. MAT is highly regulated at the federal level and MAT clients are closely supervised while using the program.
Myth 1: MAT Makes You High
BUSTED: Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are highly regulated and used under the close supervision of a doctor. After detox, cravings and withdrawal symptoms are so strong that relapse rates are extremely high. The goal of MAT is to reduce withdrawal symptoms and allow the individual to return to a “normal” state so they are able to benefit from other types of substance abuse and mental health treatment, hold a job, and return to their life. Initially, patients using methadone are required to come into the clinic every day to receive their dose and are monitored closely by nursing staff. (1)
Myth 2: People using MAT should wean off as soon as possible
BUSTED: People utilizing MAT are less likely to relapse than those who only participate in other forms of treatment. Individuals are able to return to their lives, jobs, and families. MAT is a maintenance medication like those taken for anxiety, heart issues, or diabetes, and whether or not a person should wean off the medication and risk becoming “sick” again is a personal medical choice. People using MAT as part of their treatment are like any other person with a chronic health issue and should not be discriminated against for housing, employment or services. (2)
Myth 3: MAT is an easy “cure” or is “cheating”
BUSTED: Addiction fundamentally changes how a person’s brain works. MAT allows people to start functioning normally and reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It also allows people to commit to and benefit from treatment like mental health therapy and group substance abuse treatment in order to address underlying issues related to addiction. (3)
Myth 4: Individuals using MAT are lazy criminals
BUSTED: Recent data from more than 300 Heartview clients indicates one year after beginning methadone, 70% of clients were employed (increased from 32% before starting medication) and recent drug use, overdose rates, and arrests all dramatically decreased.
Myth 5: Individuals using MAT are triggering to others in recovery
BUSTED: Whether or not an individual uses medications as part of their recovery is a personal and private medical decision. There are many pathways to recovery, people find paths through traditional treatment, AA, religious groups, exercise groups, and medication. Recovery is individualized and no one way is right or wrong or damaging to another's path.