Are you Sober If You’re on Medication-Assisted Treatment?
- September 18, 2020
Opioids (such as heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone) are narcotic substances that produce depressant effects and alleviate physical pain. No matter if opioids are obtained illegally or via prescription, the potential for abuse is substantial. That is because opioids interact with the brain in ways that keep a person continually craving more.
Opioids are so addictive that a person can become dependent on them within a matter of days. An example of the habit-forming potential associated with opioids can be seen in the nearly 3 million Americans currently addicted to opioids. Today, the amount of people who struggle with opioid use disorder, who overdose, or who die as a result of complications caused by their use has become so high that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the abuse of this substance an epidemic.
There is no doubt that opioid addiction is occurring in all corners of the country. From the richest of rich to the poorest of poor, opioid addiction is present. Thankfully, the disease of addiction is one that can be treated.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the most common pharmaceutical treatment for opioid use disorder. Individuals who seek professional addiction treatment and who are dependent on opioids may begin a medication-assisted treatment program to help reduce their cravings and dull their withdrawal symptoms. Some people utilize medication-assisted treatment for a few months while others may incorporate it into their recovery for a few years. This decision is one that is made by a professional (such as a therapist or doctor) and the patient and depends on numerous personal factors.
The two medications used in medication-assisted treatment are buprenorphine and methadone. For decades, methadone had been regarded as the top pharmaceutical option for those with opioid use disorder until buprenorphine was developed in the early 2000’s. Today, both medications are used in medication-assisted treatment and seen as the gold standard of care.
Methadone and buprenorphine work by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and either fully or partially blocking the effects of opioids. This specific action is what helps to decrease intense withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings for continued use. When taken as prescribed and combined with a therapeutic treatment plan, buprenorphine or methadone can help individuals develop a strong footing in their recovery.
Are You Sober If You’re Getting Medication-Assisted Treatment?
The most common thing that people tend to say when learning that someone is on methadone or buprenorphine is that they are simply “swapping” one drug for another. This is inaccurate, as methadone and buprenorphine are used to treat the disease of addiction, not contribute to it. The use of these medications is no different than the use of statins to treat high cholesterol or the use of antidepressants to treat depressive disorders. This can be a complex thing to understand, especially given the personal impacts that addiction can have on others. However, addiction is a clinical disease, meaning that the regular abuse of drugs like opioids change the structure of the brain in ways that keep a person continually using. There is no difference in stopping the use of opioids and striving for good health with the help of medication-assisted treatment and changing a junk food diet to a healthy one to promote better heart health. What this means is that people who are utilizing medication-assisted treatment in their recovery are sober.
Some of the primary reasons why people can call themselves sober while still taking methadone or buprenorphine as part of their treatment include the following:
- When taken as prescribed, neither buprenorphine or methadone will produce a mind-altering high. In fact, the only effects that people tend to experience are associated with sobriety, such as less cravings.
- Medication-assisted treatment is not just the act of giving a person in recovery a bottle of buprenorphine or methadone. Medication-assisted treatment is a comprehensive approach to opioid addiction treatment that does include the use of medication, but also includes therapy. Patients of a MAT program are usually seeing a therapist regularly as a part of their overall recovery plan. Continuing to see a therapist allows for the appropriate use of methadone and buprenorphine and the continued success in one’s recovery journey.
- Taking methadone or buprenorphine as directed will not cause a dependency to develop, which is what happens when an addiction to opioids occurs. Patients who take one of these medications will not experience any effects related to dependence, as their bodies are not receiving enough of the medications to cause dependence to happen. In other words, responsible use of methadone and buprenorphine for treatment purposes is safe and effective.
As mentioned before, addiction is a disease that can be partially treated with medications like those offered in medication-assisted treatment programs. Addiction, like most other health conditions that impact behavior, cannot be treated solely with medication, but rather in conjunction with therapy.
Public Confusion Behind the Medication-Assisted Treatment
There are many people throughout the country who are well-versed on opioid addiction and its treatment options who understand why patients who are enrolled in MAT are considered sober. But, there are many who do not believe this reality, which is understandable as there have been decades of negative stigma associated with the disease of addiction.
Methadone and Buprenorphine are opioid-based medications. To the naked eye, the sight of seeing a person once addicted to opioids receiving medications that contain opioids is nonsensical. But these opioid-based medications are nowhere near as potent, powerful, or habit-forming as other widely abused opioids. Therefore, when they are taken as prescribed, they are unable to produce any mind-altering effects. The presence of opioids in these medications is for the sole purpose of “tricking” the opioid receptors in the brain into thinking that more potent opioids are coursing through the body. This “trick” is what helps lessen cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing a high.
The majority of people who incorporate methadone or buprenorphine into their treatment for opioid use disorder maintain a good relationship with the medication they are taking. However, there are people who find themselves abusing these medications whether they are in recovery or not. Even though the level of opioids in these medications are minimal, a high can be produced when a lot of them are abused at once. It is understandable why many people in the public think that these medications are keeping people high when it is not uncommon to find people addicted to them. But again, methadone and buprenorphine are highly effective and safe when taken as directed by a professional.
Medication Assisted Treatment in Orange County
If you are addicted to opioids but do not know what to do about it, call us right now. We will gather an understanding of your personal situation and help guide you towards the appropriate treatment options that can meet your needs. You do not have to continue to abuse opioids — there is help.
Do not wait any longer. Reach out to us right now to put a stop to your active addiction and begin your life of recovery. You are worth it.