“Opioid addiction treatment experts say although the evidence is clear that medication-assisted treatment is the best way to tackle the nation’s Opioid epidemic, there is still a stigma attached to using these medications.” (NCADD). Many OTP settings are asked a similar question: Is medically assisted treatment simply replacing one addiction with another?
The stigma attached to Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinics is widespread across the nation and misunderstood. BSMC has participated in many oppurtunities to help educate the community – to help those who are struggling with Opioid addictions and to help their family understand how to regain their loved ones lives back. When Methadone or Buprenorphine medications are used in MAT settings, they are not substituting or replacing drug addictions. In fact, MAT is FDA-Approved in combination with behavioral therapies to treat addiction. MAT stabilizes brain chemistry, blocks the euphoric effects of Opioids, and stops cravings so patients can focus on counseling, behavioral therapies and recovery. This is the overall purpose of MAT, but reducing cravings and stabilizing patients is only a small portion in the big picture of Medically Assisted Treatment Clinics.
When a person is dependent on Opioids, their body has developed a need for these prescription medications or heroin. The body begins to crave the effects of the drugs they have built a tolerance to, which makes it hard for a person to ‘just stop’ using. A person may begin to feel symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, tearing, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, cramping, diarrhea, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting and more. These symptoms are referred to as ‘withdrawals’ and can last anywhere from one week to one month! The length and pain of these withdrawals often leads to relapse – which continues the viscous cycle of addiction.
When a person is admitted into MAT and begins taking medications such as Methadone or Buprenorphine, their withdrawal symptoms are reduced and begin to eliminate. The goal is to help each patient reach a point where they feel stable enough to regain their life back. Regaining their life includes participating in the community, working, taking care of their family, building relationships and functioning without the fear of facing withdrawals and falling back into their old routine. At BSMC medication is combined with counseling, life coaching and other educational classes to help patients learn how to deal with triggers, cravings and lifes stresses. BSMC provides everything from resume and budgeting classes to help patients find a job or learn to budget – to one on one counseling with a professional.
By combining medically assisted treatment with behavioral therapies, BSMC helps aid each person as they learn to embrace hope and receive healing. Medically Asissted Treatment isn’t replacing one addiction with another, it is created as much harm reduction as possible. The primary use of medication is to reduce and eliminate withdrawals, but there is so much more going on behind the simple act of taking medication. The typical agenda of an OTP enrolled patient is as follows:
- The patient will meet with a licensed physician who will diagnose them with opioid dependency, understand their situation and cravings, and prescribe them a personalized treatment plan.
- The patient will meet with a life coach to discuss the personalized treatment in its entirety, explaining their expectations and how BSMC can help.
- The patient will be required to come into the clinic early in the morning every day to take their proctored medication and discuss their current physical and mental status with a registered nurse.
- The patient will be greeted by counselors and life coaches who will set up appointments, give out calendars and discuss options for one on one or group counseling sessions.
- The patient will be drug tested bi-weekly to see their progress in treatment, and what they can work on to continue on their path to recovery.
- The patient will be trained on how to recognize triggers, cravings or overdose. They will have the opportunity to be trained and get access to a naloxone kit which could save a life in an event of an overdose.
- The patient will daily be in an environment where they can feel safe, comfortable and help is readily available.
This criteria proves many reasons why MAT is not simply replacing one addiction with another, such as:
- Medication is legally developed by professionals in a lab and is medically approved by the FDA, rather than bought off the streets with no assurance that the drugs they are taking will be safe.
- Environment is safe and legal, no illegal practices or uncomfortable settings will be tolerated. This provides a safe haven for all patients previously involved in domestic violence, illegal drug dealing, abuse or other criminal activity.
- Medication is taken orally and proctored by a nurse, no needles and sanitary stations reduce the risk of HIV or spread of other diseases.
- Drug testing ensures accountability of patients
- Counseling and courses teach patients about their dependencies and how to cope with them, increases confidence in patients and repairs relationships with family, friends, loved ones as well as the community. Classes discussing resumes, interviews, budgeting, education and etc help patients find new jobs and be an asset to the community.
- Progress in treatment including take home privileges teaches responsibility and life skills.
- Positive atmosphere increases confidence and hopefulness in patient.
“While limited availability of these treatments is an issue, stigma around the use of addiction medications also prevents some people from using them, experts say.” (NCADD). The Obama Administration is trying to expand access to medication-assisted treatment. President Obama has proposed $1.1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. (NCADD)
There is so many aspects Medically Assisted Treatment can play in one persons life – the positive harm reduction will continually outweigh the aspect of being a patient in an Opioid Treatment Program. Education spread throughout communities will help patients feel comfortable and find healing in their life.
“This is an exciting and challenging time for the MAT field, as positive changes accelerate and reinforce one another. The consensus panel hopes that this publication will advance high-quality care in OTPs by providing up-to-date information on science-based, best-treatment practices and by highlighting sound ethical principles of treatment. Equipped with this TIP, the accreditation standards, and a developing alliance with the general medical community, OTPs should be able to improve and expand effective Opioid addiction treatment throughout the country.” -SAMHSA
To learn more about Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) visit our contact page and speak with a team member today.