So, you or a loved one has a destructive addiction and you’ve heard that there might be a ray of hope for a better life by entering a medication-assisted treatment program. This is really good news. However, the program that you choose can be a huge factor in whether or not you remain drug-free – whether it be opiates, cocaine, alcohol, or whatever – when you leave the place.
It is important to understand the difference between a program that exists to help you stop using drugs for good, and one that wants to keep you on the medication as long as your insurance will be able to pay for it.
Although when it comes to desperate times it might be difficult to think about the best outcome of the situation if you or your loved one are ready to make a change and get life back, take a breath, and move forward slowly. When done correctly.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Most of us have heard the old adage “fight fire with fire.” In a sense, medication-assisted drug addiction treatment is using drugs to help a person get off of drugs. Depending on the drug that the person is addicted to, there are different medications that help to ease the suffering of withdrawal.
When it comes to opiate-based drugs such as heroin and oxycodone the user will become physically addicted. As the body gets used to the everyday use of the drug the brain stops producing the endorphins that the body needs in order to relax, get to sleep, dull aches, and so on.
What ends up happening is that when the user stops putting the drug into their body, they begin to feel the effects of not having a natural comforting mechanism. They become extremely angry, irritable, and uncomfortable. In addition to severe discomfort, a person going through withdrawals will experience relentless insomnia, profuse sweating, vomiting, and other ailments that make the person feel as if they are going to die.
All drugs affect the body and brain in different ways. Where quitting alcohol “cold turkey” can cause the person to have DTs and possibly die, quitting opioids without weaning off of them can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Effective?
There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question. The truth is that MAT can be very effective if the person that is getting the treatment is willing to allow it to be effective. Many people who abuse drugs suffer ugly consequences because of their drug use. Unfortunately, they may swear to never use drugs again because they woke up in jail, or got caught stealing from their grandma, might stop for a day or two, and then go right back at it as soon as they possibly can.
What MAT can provide a person suffering from substance abuse disorder is:
- A less severe withdrawal period
- Unwavering support from professionals
- A solution for their intense cravings
- A way to stop using for good
In addition to medication treatment, a drug treatment program can provide the person with resources and tools that will help them to be successful in their recovery. The more tools, support, and resources a recovering addict has on their side, the better off they are when they return to the real world.
While some people with horrible addictions try again and again to stop using the drug without success, people that go through medication-assisted addiction treatment programs have a better chance of getting off the drug, going through the withdrawal period, then rebuilding their lives.
What to Beware Of In MAT Programs
When a person finally gets to that point in their life when they want to stop using drugs more than they want to continue using them, the last thing they need is to get help from a place that only wants them to continue using different drugs.
A great example of this is a methadone clinic that advocates for “maintenance programs.” While there may be some clinics out there that encourage their clients to taper off of the drug slowly and get completely free from the need for it, a majority of these establishments love to advocate for long-term maintenance. Some refer to this method as harm reduction. Some refer to it as a scam.
If you sign up for a program that has already accepted the fact that there is no hope for you because you will never amount to anything more than a person that needs “maintenance,” you are selling yourself short.
If you think about it, there are probably millions of people that suffer from opioid addiction. If every one of those people were to commit to switching to methadone from heroin the companies that claim to be “helping” would be raking in a stable cash flow of millions of dollars a day for as long as the clients live.
Unfortunately, there are a number of businesses that love to profit from the misfortunes of others. Steer clear of maintenance treatment. There is no need to “maintain” your addiction. You can stop and be free of it for good.
When looking for a program to get into, find out exactly what they have to offer. If they want to help you completely get off of drugs and live a life free from having to use them they are most likely a decent organization that sincerely wants to help.
If your treatment center wants you to sign up for a year or two of daily maintenance, just know that they are not looking out for your best interests at all.
What To Look For In a Treatment Center
There probably isn’t a person alive on this planet that has not been affected in one way or another by drug abuse. People that suffer from substance abuse disorder are simply people. They are human beings. They deserve a chance at getting themselves on track without judgment.
When looking for a substance abuse treatment center that offers MAT the one thing to look for is whether or not they are looking out for YOU. A person seeking help from a business for their addiction is a potential client that is trying to better themselves. True addiction treatment specialists are compassionate, kind, and want to help.
Some of the things to consider when choosing a MAT program are:
- If they offer moral support
- If they encourage a 12-step program
- If they offer a path of complete abstinence
- If they communicate with you and listen to you
Although many people feel as if they are less than human when they take the steps that they need to take in order to quit using drugs, a good treatment program will address all components of the healing process.
Find What is Right For You
Substance abuse disorder does not discriminate. A person has the potential to abuse whatever kind of substance that is available to them. For some people it is crack cocaine, for others it is Vodka. There are people that would prefer to sniff gas or glue, and people that like to shoot methamphetamine into their veins.
When you look for help make sure that wherever you go that they understand your preferred substance and what they need to do in order to get you off of it without killing you or putting you through hell.
Where opioid abusers will typically get Suboxone, which is a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone, alcohol users that are experiencing delirium tremens will be given a benzodiazepine to help calm their nervous system. If the alcoholic were to get the opioid user’s meds and vice versa there could be severe problems. One treatment that works great for one person could potentially kill the next.
Stay in the Moment
It is typical for people to focus their energy on the future that could be horrible or a past that was hurtful. When people focus on the future or the past, especially when they are struggling with substance abuse, life can become very difficult. All of the “what ifs” and the “should haves” can peacefully be ignored when a person focuses on what is in front of them in the exact moment they are in.
Any respectable substance abuse treatment program will understand that a person coming for help is already suffering. Most of the people that get to a point where they ask for help with their addiction have been through some rough times and have been forced to make the decision to either stop using, go to prison, or die.
When you find help that encourages you, listens to you, is there for you, and reminds you to stay in the here and now…you have probably found an amazing treatment program that will help you, not only get off of your substance but to stay off of it for good.