Medication Assisted Treatment: Solution or Set-Up for Opiate Addicts?

Summary and Analysis…

This article, written by a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, articulates the problems associated with a single pathway approach to recovery. It focuses on drug treatment approaches that exclude alternatives in favor of long-term reliance on drugs such as methadone or Suboxone. This includes a caution against the likely unintended consequences of wholesale  adoption of Medication Assisted Treatment without also bolstering other aspects of recovery.

The writer points out that it is “crucial to examine and address … how can these people on M.A.T. be effectively helped to get off the prescribed M.A.T. medications and not revert back to their usual drug of choice especially in a “feetox” (a term coined by patients on methadone clinics who are being rapidly tapered down in dosage due to their inability to pay) situation.”

Excerpted from OdysseyOnline

The problematic strategy I am alluding to is Medicated Assisted Treatment (M.A.T.) which is explained here in detail by S.A.M.H.S.A. Research supports this as an effective way to help people stop using illicit opiates, insurance companies often pay for these medications in part, and treatment facilities are quickly adding M.A.T. to the treatment plans of clients with Opiate Use Disorder. For some, this is a great option, but is it good for all opiate addicts? And, are we on the verge of a “cookie cutter” intervention that could end up hurting more people than it is saving?

Medications being prescribed for M.A.T. protocols that pose potential cross-addiction problems are Methadone, Suboxone and Subutex. Originally, methadone and buprenorphine were used in harm reduction models (for people who have had multiple failed attempts at recovery and accept being on these medications long-term in an attempt lessen risk of illegal activities to acquire their illicit substances, for the addict to be able to maintain employment by not worrying about becoming ill from withdrawal symptoms so frequently, and, for less need to use needles and spread diseases). These are all great reasons to provide M.A.T., but, with the escalation of the opiate crisis, these primary reasons to offer these medications have shifted from a last resort treatment option to the first line of defense.