What are the disadvantages of MAT?
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an approach implemented nationally by licensed physicians in programs to address opioid use disorder through the utilization of FDA-approved medications. This therapeutic approach is complemented by counseling and behavioral therapies, creating a comprehensive method that has exhibited high success rates. When individuals grappling with substance dependence assess various treatment options, they often contemplate the potential MAT side effects and may ask, “What are the disadvantages of MAT?”
At MAT Care Clinics, we embark on a thorough examination of MAT side effects. In this blog, we will explore the three FDA-approved medications employed in MAT for the treatment of opioid dependence—Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone. Given that these medications are controlled substances with the potential for abuse, it is crucial to emphasize that individuals can safely utilize these medications by strictly following the doses and treatment time determined by the physician expert in the field for their program, even if it last months, years, and even a lifetime.
Medication-Assisted Treatment: How Does it Work?
Medication-assisted treatment is an effective method for addressing opioid dependence. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines MAT as “the use of medications in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies, aiming to provide a comprehensive approach to the treatment of substance abuse disorders.” In this context, MAT utilizes medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, which function by blocking the euphoric effects produced by drugs or alcohol, reducing cravings, and mitigating uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
While MAT might appeal to many, understanding the roles of each medication used in treatment and the potential risks associated is crucial.
Methadone is employed to treat individuals with long-term opioid dependence. This synthetic opioid agonist, approved as a treatment in 1947, was recognized as maintenance therapy in 1971 due to its prolonged duration of action (between 19 and 40 hours). Methadone assists in decreasing daily drug use, as its effect endures much longer than that of heroin or morphine. Although it eliminates withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours, misuse can result in tolerance and physical dependence, with potential withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of use. Despite these risks, methadone poses fewer dangers compared to heroin and morphine.
Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone or Subutex, received FDA approval in 2002 for treating opioid use disorders. Previously utilized as an analgesic, buprenorphine, a partial opioid antagonist, functions similarly by reducing pain through binding to opioid receptors in the brain. Though not classified as a full opioid, it could lead to dependence or addiction if misused. Suboxone, a blend of buprenorphine and naloxone, is effectively used in detoxification and maintenance therapy, preventing euphoric effects and diminishing opioid cravings.
Vivitrol is the brand name for naltrexone employed to prevent opioid or alcohol abuse by reducing cravings. Naltrexone is administered by physicians orally or intravenously, lasting in the body for 30 days. Naltrexone acts as an opioid antagonist, blocking the effects of opioids. Naltrexone, like any medical intervention, poses significant risks. These include adverse reactions like nausea, abdominal pain, muscle pain, fatigue, changes in appetite, and potential liver problems. As an opioid antagonist, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain, eliminating the ability to feel opioid effects, even in emergencies. Excessive opioid use with naltrexone can heighten the risk of respiratory depression, a dangerous decrease in breathing. Therefore, avoiding opioid use while on naltrexone is crucial.
Exploring 4 MAT Side Effects
Individualized Response to Medications:
Unfortunately, there is no universally successful approach in the world of treatments. When considering treatment for opioid dependence, one of the potential MAT side effects is the unique biological response that each body can experience, as we all react differently to MAT medications. Although methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are three FDA-approved medications, reactions vary based on each person’s unique physiology and medical history. It is crucial to recognize that while these medications may be effective for many, there are individual differences in the body’s response to them.
Potential Adverse Reactions:
As with any medication, MAT drugs can trigger adverse reactions. To avoid potential MAT side effects, it is imperative that individuals in treatment remain vigilant for any unusual symptoms or side effects and promptly communicate them to their medical providers. Some MAT side effects may include nausea, dizziness, or sleep disturbances. Understanding potential adverse effects allows individuals to actively engage in their treatments and ensure that medical providers can address any issues in a timely manner for the successful completion of treatment.
Controversy Surrounding Long-Term Use:
The FDA approved the three medications and classified them as controlled substances due to their potential for abuse, generating controversy regarding their long-term use. Although this controversy exists, it is essential to note that, under proper medical supervision, individuals can use these medications safely for extended periods as long as they commit to strictly following their doctors’ instructions.
Interactions with Other Drugs:
Another critical aspect to consider when delving into the risks of medication-assisted treatment involves the potential interactions with other drugs. Naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine being potent medications, may interact with various substances, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbal remedies. These interactions could lead to unintended effects, diminished efficacy, or even adverse reactions. It is paramount for individuals undergoing MAT to communicate transparently with their healthcare providers about all the substances they are using to ensure a comprehensive understanding of potential interactions and to make informed adjustments to the treatment plan if necessary.
Enhancing the Benefits of MAT
Experts advocating for the use of medication-assisted treatment are aware that this approach boasts high success rates compared to other treatments. According to the South Dakota Department of Social Services, up to 90% of patients who use MAT maintain sobriety at the 2-year mark. However, experts also emphasize the need to complement medication-based treatment with psychological therapy to address not only the physical discomforts arising in the drug recovery process but also the emotional roots causing substance dependence.
Identifying and addressing the primary reasons for substance dependence and compulsive behavior ensures that individuals do not become dependent on other drugs, including those used in a MAT plan. The lack of behavioral modification and psychological support can often be a reason why an individual may struggle with MAT programs.
Among the complementary treatments for MAT, MAT Care Clinics highlights the following:
- Comprehensive behavioral therapy
- Group and recreational therapies
- Individual counseling
- Integrated family programming
- Support groups
- Art therapy
- Alternative or holistic treatments
MAT Care Clinics and Opioids Dependence Treatment
At MAT Care Clinics, our mission is to provide professional, timely, and effective care for individuals battling opioid dependence in New England. Our clinic in Nashua, New Hampshire, offers medication-assisted treatment administered by specialized professionals. We are mindful of the MAT side effects and, as such, provide comprehensive information about the risks, proactively addressing any potential situations that may interfere with the success and completion of the treatment.
MAT Care Clinics encourages and supports patients to complement medication therapies with psychological therapeutic assistance, making opioid dependence treatment accessible to those in need. For more information on the risks of medication-assisted treatment, call us at (833) 622-0628 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Explore more about MAT and MAT Care Clinics through our informative blogs.