5 Frequently Asked Questions about Medication-Assisted Treatment


The opioid epidemic has placed an emphasis on helping those with opioid use disorders not only seek treatment, but stay in treatment.

There are many treatment options for addiction, but Medication-Assisted Treatment is often recommended because of improved outcomes associated with this type of therapy. Learn more about Medication-Assisted Treatment and get answers to common questions and concerns.

1. What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) or treatment is one of the most effective options for treating individuals with an opioid addiction. This type of treatment uses medications to relieve symptoms of opioid dependence and withdrawal. Counseling and support groups are another component of MAT, and often required in many programs. In other words, a person cannot receive medication unless he or she is also receiving therapy.

2. What are common medications used in MAT?

When looking at MAT programs, you’ll frequently see methadone and suboxone mentioned. You might also see treatment facilities refer to themselves as methadone clinics, or they might say they offer methadone maintenance treatment.

Methadone and suboxone are opioids. Because opioid addiction produces several withdrawal symptoms, these drugs are used to reduce pain and cravings without the harmful effects of other opioids like heroin or prescription drugs.

Vivitrol is a newer prescription medication for opioid addiction. It is an injectable that a person in recovery takes once a month to prevent relapse, and blocks the effects of opioids. Vivitrol must be used in conjunction with counseling. Unlike methadone or suboxone, it is a medication that is used after detox when the body is cleared of opioids.

All of these medications require a prescription and doctor supervision. Methadone is only available at licensed treatment centers.

3. What is the difference between an opioid agonist and antagonist?

Because the medications used in MAT are opioids, there is often concern that treating an opioid addiction with an opioid will hinder recovery.

Opioids fall into three different classes: agonist, partial agonist, and antagonist. Like heroin, methadone is an opioid agonist. The larger the dose of an agonist, the more someone will feel the effects. It’s important to remember that methadone dosage is carefully monitored in a treatment setting. Administered doses won’t produce a high.

The second class of opioids is partial opioid agonists, which produce less of an effect than agonists. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. Partial agonists bind to opioid receptors, but reach a plateau. After a certain time, increasing a dosage won’t increase the effects.

Vivitrol is an antagonist, meaning unlike methadone or suboxone, it blocks opioid receptors in the brain from producing endorphins.

4. How effective is MAT?

Because MAT is a holistic approach to treatment, it can be very effective for treating opioid addiction. Importantly, MAT helps keep people in treatment and also reduces the chances of relapse following treatment.

The Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a study that found that those who started MAT for opioid use disorder in the emergency department were more likely to stay and engage in treatment.

5. Is MAT available to adolescents?

MAT availability for adolescents varies state by state. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved MAT for people under the age of 18, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended medical professionals consider making this treatment more available for adolescents with opioid use disorders.

Learn more about Medication-Assisted Treatment at Pyramid Healthcare or contact an admissions specialist for more information.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment
  2. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2279713

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