If you’ve been around the recovery community for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard of MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment). MAT combines medications and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders. It is becoming a more popular solution for those addicted to opiates.
Methadone is a common medication given to someone looking to get off drugs. It is a synthetic opioid that is supposed to help a patient quit using without all the withdrawal symptoms. It is the oldest approved treatment for heroin addiction and there are newer drugs being introduced.
One of these drugs is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, otherwise known as Suboxone. This is an FDA approved medication for opiate treatment since 2002.
So…what’s the problem with these medications? Here’s a list of why MAT is not a viable way to treat addiction.
1. MAT Does Not Relieve Withdrawal Symptoms
The thought is that taking these approved medications will ease an addict through the withdrawal phase so they can quit easily. There’s a problem with that thought process.
The drugs that are given to you are in fact also opioids. You aren’t technically withdrawing from anything.
In fact, WebMD states that taking methadone is an effective way to treat the withdrawal of opiates for 24 to 36 hours. Do you know why that is? Because while you are taking it, you aren’t yet withdrawing.
In fact, in that very same article, they state, “This medication may cause withdrawal reactions.” Wait a minute? I thought this medication was supposed to prevent that from happening?
2. MAT Encourages Addiction
Merriam-Webster defines addiction as, “the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance.” Now that we’ve established that, let’s go back to the original WebMD article.
They say, “Medication may sometimes cause addiction. This risk may be higher if you have a substance use disorder (such as overuse of or addiction to drugs/alcohol).”
Isn’t the point of this kind of therapy to treat addiction and achieve sobriety? Apparently, you have the chance of being addicted to the process that is supposed to break the addiction.
Are you confused yet?
3. MAT Is Not Safe
Methadone is a Schedule II narcotic according to the Federal drug classifications. That means it requires a special license to dispense it. In addition, we’ve seen that it carries a high risk of dependence.
Side effects of using methadone include dizziness, lowered respiration rate, drowsiness, constipation, lethargy and elevated mood. Methadone is particularly dangerous when mixed with other drugs. In fact, in 2012, methadone was to blame for nearly 1/3 of all opioid-related deaths.
Suboxone can be just as dangerous and addictive. While it is only a partial opioid, the chances of becoming physically dependent on the drug are extremely high, especially after prolonged use. This can be years, months, or even just weeks. Nevertheless, the longer an individual is on Suboxone, the more likely they are to experience withdrawal symptoms, which mirror those of heroin withdrawal.
4. MAT Lengthens Dependency To Drugs
Prescribing another opiate to treat drug addiction postpones recovery. The longer a person continues on these treatment options, the less motivated they become to be drug-free.
5. MAT Creates The Same Life Situations As Drug Use
Let’s take a look at the average day in the life of someone taking a drug such as Methadone or Suboxone. You might notice some similarities between this and drug use.
- You wake up early and drive to a clinic in a bad part of town.
- There are many excuses about why you can’t leave town or change your schedule.
- You have very little energy.
- Methadone & Suboxone do not get you high but just keeps you from being sick.
- You start adding in some other drugs like Xanax or cocaine to attempt a slight “buzz”.
- Trying to concentrate becomes more difficult.
- You start worrying that something is going to happen and you’ll miss your daily dose.
- Nodding off during the day is still part of your normal routine.
- You feel guilty about needing to pay so much money for these drugs.
- You end up feeling hopeless with no way of ever getting out.
Any of this sounds familiar? It’s a lot like drug addiction and shows that MAT doesn’t break the cycle. It just prolongs it with the façade that your addiction is being treated.
With all the discussion about how Methadone and Suboxone are supposed to aid in the withdrawal symptoms, it is important to note that the same thing occurs when a person attempts to stop these maintenance drugs.
Methadone Abuse Help states, “The withdrawal symptoms are intense and if attempted too suddenly can be fatal.” That sounds exactly like what occurs if you attempt to stop taking opiates.
7. Trading One Drug For Another
Many people who struggle with addiction have said something like this to themselves at one point or another, “If I were addicted to opiates and I knew I had a problem, I might try avoiding the drugs and stick to just drinking instead.” In my mind, this is a better option and is a way to get off the drugs.
If I walked into an AA or NA meeting while drinking, could I claim I was sober? No!
Even though the use of alcohol is legal, I am using it to alter the way I am feeling. Therefore, I am not sober.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Let’s turn that thought pattern around. If I am addicted to opiates and decide to take legal opiates prescribed by a physician, does that make me sober?
The answer is still no. I am replacing one drug for another in an effort to feel a certain way. My body is still addicted to an opiate, legal or not.
8. MAT Doesn’t Treat The Problem
The problem isn’t that the patient needs to avoid withdrawal. The real issue is that they are an addict who needs intensive work to change thought patterns, behaviors and habits. This isn’t going to happen by changing the drug of choice.
In fact, most people who are addicted suffer from other issues as well. Someone addicted to opiates will often use cocaine or other illicit substances from time to time. MAT doesn’t solve that.
They also regularly face mental health disorders such as bipolar, depression and anxiety. MAT doesn’t solve that.
The only solution to addiction is intensive work with the help of the 12-steps and a dedicated team of professionals.
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you are addicted to opiates or other drugs, making the decision to go to treatment, and then committing to that decision is the first step in changing your life. Recovery is a daily process of hard work. Your future depends on the decisions you make today so don’t wait. Seek the help you need and begin to learn how to live again.
With 45 years of experience, Clearbrook Treatment Centers can provide you or a loved one with the treatment and care that you deserve. If you are ready to change your life, please contact our Admissions Specialists today and see what recovery has to offer.