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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

While the ultimate goal of any type of addiction treatment is to do it in the most natural, holistic way possible that is not always an option. For some people, especially those who are suffering from opioid addiction, the addiction is so severe that medication is needed during the treatment process. When that happens, it is known as medication-assisted treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment While giving someone who suffers from a substance abuse addiction medication might seem counterproductive, it can actually be incredibly beneficial in the right situation. There are many different types of medications that can be used with MAT, each used in conjunction with counseling and therapy to help treat the patient for their addiction.  This page will discuss in detail everything you need to know about medication-assisted rehab for women. Our certified opioid treatment program and addiction program include MAT to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a type of treatment that incorporates medication into the addiction treatment process. All medications that are provided through this treatment are FDA approved. While MAT is typically used to treat those with opioid addiction, it has also proven to be useful for people suffering from other types of addictions as well, particularly severe addictions to a substance.  Medication-assisted substance abuse treatment is combined with other types of therapies including counseling and therapy sessions in order to achieve the ultimate goal of sobriety.

Medication-assisted treatment has proven to be beneficial in the following ways:

  • It improves the patient’s chances of survival
  • It increases retention in treatment
  • It helps the patients’ ability to get a job and keep it
  • It helps improve the chances of a healthy, successful birth for women who are pregnant
  • It helps prevent relapse

How Exactly Does MAT Work?

While the concept of giving someone drugs in order to help them with a drug or alcohol use disorder can be used to treat substance use disorders. Opioids might seem to be completely counterproductive, however, it has been proven to work in many different types of addiction patients.  Medication-assisted rehab has proven to be incredibly beneficial for those suffering from opioid dependence and alcohol abuse.

Opioid addiction treatment is significantly more intensive than other types of treatments and often requires medication in order for treatment to be successful. The opioid epidemic continues to be a problem across the states, which is why treatment options have continued to grow. If it is deemed that a person will benefit from MAT, they will be prescribed the medication by a doctor or other trained medical professional at the treatment facility.

A staff member will also administer the medication in order to make sure that it is not being abused in any way.  There are many different types of medications that have proven successful when it comes to treatment and in some cases, the person might try different types of medications until they find the one that works best for them.

What Types of Medications Are Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment?

There are three main types of medications that have all been FDA approved for use in medication-assisted treatment. Those three medications are:

  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone


Naltrexone helps patients who are dealing with the effects of opioid withdrawal. It can be taken either orally with a pill or injected. It is designed to block the euphoric high feeling that the brain craves when it is addicted to a substance. Naltrexone also helps cut down on the urge to use again, thus lowering the chances of relapse. Potential side effects of naltrexone include:

  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches and dizziness


Buprenorphine is one of the more common medications used during MAT. In fact, it is the first medication that medical staff will try and it can be prescribed at any doctor’s office. Buprenorphine is the only medication used in MAT that can be administered by someone outside of a treatment facility.  Buprenorphine typically is administered in pill form and it is designed to alleviate the side effects associated with opioid withdrawal as well as decrease the urge to want to use again. Potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness and sleepiness


While methadone is an opioid, it can actually be used to treat opioid addiction. In fact, because of its strength, methadone can curb the cravings and side effects associated with opioid withdrawal for as long as a day and a half with just one dose. Because it is such a strong opioid, methadone has the potential to be abused, which is why it is important that its use and distribution be monitored by a medical professional at a designated treatment center or a facility such as a methadone clinic. Potential side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Mood swings
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Stomach pain

Can MAT Be Used To Treat Other Types of Addictions?

While medication-assisted treatment is mostly used to treat opioid addiction, it has proven to be effective in treating other types of addictions as well. One of the other types of addiction that it has been proven to be successful in helping treat is alcohol addiction. There are three main types of medications that have been used to help treat alcohol addiction. They are:

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram


Just like with opioids, naltrexone has been proven to be effective for MAT for alcohol as well. Just like with opioids it helps block the euphoric effects that come along with drinking alcohol and allows those with an alcohol issue to reduce alcohol use and avoid relapsing.


Acamprosate is designed for those who are already in recovery and are trying to avoid a relapse. While it helps prevent someone from wanting to drink alcohol, it does not help prevent any sort of withdrawal symptoms.  Acamprosate is typically administered after someone has remained completely sober for five days. It is administered in pill form and is taken three times a day. Side effects of acamprosate include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping


Disulfiram is used to treat the most extreme cases of alcoholism and is ideal for those who have already completed detox and are now beginning treatment. It is administered in pill form and is taken once a day. Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing

How Do I Know If Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Right For Me?

Medication-Assisted Treatment for womenWhile ultimately, the decision will likely be made by the medical professionals at the treatment facility, there are certain factors that can help determine if MAT is right for a certain patient.

First off, treatment professionals will take a look at the type of substance abuse as well as the severity to help determine if MAT is the best course of action.  They will also see if a co-occurring disorder is present. The ideal candidate for MAT is someone who has:

  • Been diagnosed with an opioid or severe alcohol addiction
  • No physical issues that would prevent being prescribed the medication
  • Fully understands the treatment process
  • Agrees to follow all the rules and restrictions that come with MAT

On the contrary, if any of the following apply to you then MAT might not be the best treatment option for you:

  • Not motivated to get sober
  • Suffers from multiple substance addictions simultaneously
  • Has a history of misuse and abuse of medication
  • Suffers from health issues that might make MAT dangerous or deadly

If you are still unsure if MAT is the best treatment option for you, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you struggle to stay sober after you have completed treatment?
  • Do you find yourself relapsing constantly?
  • Do you think you can take medication only as directed and not abuse it?

If you answered yes to one or all of those questions then MAT might be right for you.

What Other Treatments Are Used in Conjunction with MAT?

While MAT can help in someone’s recovery from drugs and alcohol, it is not a treatment that can be done on its own. If you are participating in a MAT program, you will also undergo other treatment methods in conjunction with that in order to treat your addiction.  Complimentary treatments include behavioral therapies such as:

  • Individual therapy (mental health services)
  • Group therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Holistic treatments

Does New Directions for Women Offer Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-Assisted Treatment Costa Mesa CaliforniaWhile it might not be for everyone and it might even seem like it would be counterproductive, medication-assisted treatment can be incredibly beneficial for those suffering from opioid or severe alcohol addiction.  Opioid treatment programs and general addiction programs offer MAT as a way to treat substance abuse and opioid use disorders.

At New Directions for Women, it is our number one priority to get you the help that you need for your addiction and successfully get you on the road to recovery. That is why we offer a wide variety of treatment methods for our patients, including MAT.  If you or someone you know is suffering from an opioid use disorder and thinks that you could benefit from medication-assisted treatment, or any other treatment option, contact us today. We want to get you the help you need so you can enjoy a clean and sober life.

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Clinically Reviewed By:

Picture of Heather Black-Coyne, LMFT, CADC II, Chief Clinical Officer

Heather Black-Coyne, LMFT, CADC II, Chief Clinical Officer

Heather most recently served as the Clinical Director of a gender-specific treatment center in Huntington Beach. She is trained in both Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which serve the needs of our clients, many of whom have experienced both complex trauma and substance use disorder.

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