medication assisted treatment

The Conversation About Medication Assisted Treatment Must Change

medication assisted treatment

Each and every person has their own bottom and their own story. So shouldn’t everyone have their own way of gaining sobriety?

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What Is MAT?

MAT is an acronym for medication assisted treatment. MAT programming is a common form of treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. It is uncommon to not offer some variation of medication assisted treatment if you have a quality addiction treatment program. There are various versions of MAT, but all include prescription medication to assist with a customized treatment plan. However, there are still a number of people who are anti-MAT in the recovery and addiction treatment industry. Those who support abstinence and traditional 12-step methodology are highly opinionated and frequently express their disapproval of medication assisted treatment programs. It’s time for the conversation around MAT to change. We are in the midst of an epidemic of heroin and prescription pain medication overdoses and medication assisted therapy has been proven to significantly reduce relapse rates; at the end of the day our main concern should be saving lives.

What Is the Issue?

There is a certain taboo that surrounds MAT programming for those who work a 12-step abstinence recovery program. A large addiction treatment hub for alcohol and drug abuse is located in South Florida. The concept of medication assisted treatment, specifically in this geographical area, is highly stigmatized. The overall opinion is anti-MAT and anti-treatment centers/rehabs that offer any kind of maintenance programs.

The stigma around MAT shouldn’t exist among 12-step groups: the traditional 12-step program states that no fellow AA, NA member should be giving medical advice to fellow AA, NA member. Every single individual has their own path in recovery and their own journey to conquer; people who are heavily involved in “the rooms” should understand that without judgement. Again, the main concern should be saving lives. Instead, the opinions of fellow AA, NA members are alienating many of those who are in a MAT program. The stigma is so strong that it is at the point where many who participate in medication assisted treatment hide that fact in order to be accepted in the recovery community.

The addiction treatment industry (specifically the South Florida hub) is filled with people who are in 12-step recovery, so the line is often blurred when it comes to personal opinions and proper treatment methodology. What happened to the days that we were all working in this industry to save lives? The general population of the recovery community down in South Florida does not understand the basic concepts that go into a MAT program– as soon as medication is spoken about it is automatically assumed it is only a maintenance program, and MAT is so much more than just maintenance. The main point here is that not everyone finds recovery in the same 12-step model and for those who don’t, other treatment options must be explored.

Today, there are a number of insurance companies that will not approve treatment days for an individual who has been labeled a “chronic relapser” if the treatment facility does not offer a MAT program. For opioid dependency, the relapse rate tops 80%; that is an extremely high rate of continued drug use after successfully completing a drug addiction treatment plan. The disease catches hold of some people and the temptation after treatment is too great, and this is when relapse occurs. In the recovery scene, it is a common belief that one will seek help when they are ready to actually stop using and that every addict has their own time.

MAT programming is a great option to have for certain individuals who have been previously labeled “chronic relapsers.” Medication maintenance programs cut the urges, cravings and reduce relapse rates up to 62%. A quality treatment center will have a individualized MAT plan based on each client and their specific needs.

For every chronic, major, life-threatening disease there are a number of different care plans or modalities that are used; for addiction treatment this should be the same concept. The facts remain: MAT programming significantly reduces the overdose rate of opioids, it reduces the relapse rate overall, and it is saving lives.

So regardless of how people feel who are working abstinence-based free 12-step programs, the ultimate goal should always be the prevention of accidental deaths due to opioid abuse. The attitude within the rooms is quite off-putting; the judgemental opinions about MAT programming and the online trolling and slander that happens from those in recovery towards MAT facilities is astounding. Facilities that have various drug addiction resources should not be crucified or cyber-bullied by the local recovery community for having multiple treatment program options. Each and every client regardless of where they are attending treatment should have a customized treatment care plan that was created specifically for them. If certain clients are deemed suitable for MAT programming then no one without a medical license should have an opinion because it is none of their business.

Especially with the rule in AA and NA of never giving medical advice to a fellow member, it is sad to see just how judgmental the recovery community (and in turn addiction treatment industry). Has everyone lost their way and become so detached from the person they were before they found recovery? Each and every person has their own bottom and their own story. So shouldn’t everyone have their own way of gaining sobriety?

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