The Many Forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Q & A: Buprenorphine and Other Oral Forms of MAT                 

Michelle Rosenker

August 9, 2019

Q: What is MAT?

A: Medication-Assisted Treatment—MAT for short—is a type of addiction treatment that incorporates medications deemed appropriate by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid addiction into a treatment plan that contains more commonly used therapies, such as group counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal of MAT is to help those recovering from opioid addiction do so both physically and mentally in order to produce more positive outcomes.

Q: What oral medications are used in MAT?

A: Even with the rise of injectable medications to treat opioid use disorder, the vast majority of people who are participating in medication-assisted treatment still take oral medications. These medications, which are the only medications approved for use in opioid addiction treatment facilities by the FDA,  include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

Q: What is methadone?

A: Methadone is a full opioid agonist, which means that, when it is taken, the opioid receptors in the brain are fully activated. What this does is send out a signal alerting the mind and body that opioids are present, which neutralizes any symptoms of withdrawal.

Despite methadone being effective in decreasing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, it can also be habit-forming, which is why it is usually required for methadone patients to come and get their dose of it on a daily basis at their chosen treatment facility.

Q: What is buprenorphine?

A: Buprenorphine was approved for use in treatment centers in the early 2000s and has quickly grown more popular than methadone. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it does not fully activate the opioid receptors, which lessens withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Buprenorphine, which can be found in Suboxone, is available in tablet form or in dissolvable strips that are placed on the tongue or inside of the cheek. (Of course, this is only part of a complete Suboxone treatment.) Buprenorphine can be addictive, which is why this medication is also carefully administrated to patients.


Q: What is naltrexone?

A: Most people may know of naltrexone as being the main ingredient in Vivitrol, an injectable medication to help curb cravings. However, naltrexone also comes in an oral form, which is an option that many people receiving MAT take.

Naltrexone is a pure opioid antagonist, which means it completely blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, preventing those sought-after feelings of being “high.” Naltrexone is different from other oral medications used in MAT in that it does nothing to curb withdrawal symptoms. In fact, those who take Vivitrol must be fully detoxed prior to beginning this medication, or they can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is most effective in helping reduce cravings.

Q: How can buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone help me in my recovery?

A: Depending on which medication you take, there are several benefits in your recovery. Taking buprenorphine or methadone not only helps keep withdrawal symptoms at bay, they also make cravings easier to deal with. This can help you place your focus on other areas of your recovery and encourage you to stay in treatment rather than leave early. The longer you remain in treatment, the better your outcome will be.

Naltrexone is extremely beneficial during the period of time post-detox. It Naltrexone works as a support to help you avoid overwhelming cravings so you can continue treatment. Naltrexone can also continue to benefit you even after you leave treatment, serving as a safety net for the early part of recovery, where you might be at your most vulnerable.

Q: Will I only be prescribed one medication? 

A: Oral medications used in MAT are designed to be taken individually, so yes, you will only be taking one medication at a time. However, that does not mean that you will not start on one medication and then transition to another, which is extremely common for those in recovery from opioid addiction.

For example, you may come into treatment and be started on methadone to help you through the first and most difficult parts of detox. As time passes and your dependency on opioids subsides, you may be switched over to buprenorphine or naltrexone depending on your needs. This allows your body and mind to detox slowly and transition into a maintenance mode or off of medication completely.

Q: What happens if I become addicted to a MAT medication? 

A: Methadone and buprenorphine can be addictive if they are abused, so there is potential for an addiction to develop. Within a MAT program, though, this is extremely rare, as these medications are carefully monitored and administered.

If you come into treatment addicted to a medication that we use to help treat opioid dependence, we will evaluate your need for medication and, if the benefits outweigh the risks, we can prescribe to you a different medication. For example, if you are addicted to methadone and come for MAT, you may be prescribed buprenorphine instead.

Get Help Today by Reaching out to JourneyPure Elizabethtown

If you are ready to learn more about options like Medication-Assisted Treatment, or to gather more information about our programming, reach out to JourneyPure Elizabethtown now. We can help you put your active addiction behind you and get you moving on a positive path towards recovery.