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The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcohol Addiction

The challenge of overcoming the anxiety and fear of detoxification in the initial step of addiction treatment can be paralyzing. Undoubtedly, all people struggling with addiction experience the pain of withdrawal or the intense craving for a substance, which is unpleasant and overwhelming.

Treatment centers offering MAT for alcohol addiction can provide validation to their potential patients’ fears and explain how beneficial the option is. Fortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the possibility of relapse during alcohol detox. 

MAT: An Introduction

Advances in the understanding of how addiction affects the brain, body, and behavior deliver new options to treatment professionals to utilize medication in treatment. In late 1972, the approval of methadone as an aid in opioid addiction was the initial stepping stone for methadone-assisted treatment (MAT).

The National Institute of Health relays that the beneficial collection of positive reinforcement data proves the effectiveness of using medication in substance use treatment programs. Patients participating in the MAT program were able to stop using heroin, work, and maintain family responsibilities, which is a valid statement of effectiveness. 

Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is a reference to treating patients over time with methadone. MMT uses an individual determination as to how long a person must use methadone in their treatment plan. Treatment centers now have four FDA-approved medications for use in substance use treatment programs. Now, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) includes a combination of medication and therapy to utilize a “whole person” approach in treatment for the management of withdrawal and to prevent relapse.

MAT for Alcohol Addiction

MAT for alcohol addiction offers medication and behavioral therapy for a whole-patient approach to addiction treatment. Nevertheless, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that in 2022, among an estimated 28.8 million adults with an alcohol use disorder, only 2.2% received medication-assisted treatment in the past year.

Progressive treatment centers are offering medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to address the mental and physical effects of substance abuse and increase the odds of successful recovery. Fortunately, centers utilizing this valuable component of treatment find a connection to identifying the roots of addiction, triggers, and contributing factors that may lead to relapse as a significant benefit to their patients. 

Therapy is an integral component of medication-assisted treatment. Individual, group, family, and holistic therapies are all evidence-based treatments found to be effective. Many patients have a mental health condition found to be present in the initial assessment, which responds to these therapies as well. Developing healthy coping mechanisms and rebuilding self-esteem while repairing relationships are all vital concerns in treatment to avoid future relapse and meet the goals set in the treatment plan.  

Medications Used in MAT for Alcoholism

Acamprosate, Naltrexone, and Disulfiram are three common medications for use with a severe alcohol use disorder. Individual assessment and direction from a medical professional will determine the most beneficial effect for each patient. The focus remains on the lowest dose possible to maintain comfort and ease cravings. Alcohol detox is a life-threatening process, and close supervision is advisable throughout. 

  • Acamprosate: Patients must be alcohol-free for at least 5 days before taking this medication. Typically taken in pill form, acamprosate helps to prevent cravings and support long-term sobriety. 
  • Naltrexone: Prevents the ability to get drunk if a patient drinks alcohol. Naltrexone takes away the reward response users get from drinking. 
  • Disulfiram: Patients must complete detox before taking this drug. The benefits are a highly adverse physical reaction if the patient drinks any amount of alcohol. 

Pros and Cons of MAT for Alcohol Addiction

MAT for alcohol addiction addresses both the psychological and physical components of addiction, keeping with a whole-person approach to treatment. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant affecting bodily functions, mood, behavior, coordination, and speech. Every individual is unique in their treatment needs. Weighing out the pros and cons can help to decide when looking for medication-assisted treatment options. 

Pros of medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Effectiveness: addressing all aspects of addiction instead of focusing on just medication or therapy alone.
  • Affordability: Many insurance plans now cover all or partial components of a MAT program.
  • Freedom: MAT can continue as long as support is needed.
  • Integration into other programs: whole-person therapy is easily adaptable to holistic and alternative therapy options.
  • Ease into home transitioning: less fear and anxiety knowing treatment is continual as each needs.

Cons of medication-assisted treatment include: 

  • Taking medications: not all people are comfortable taking medications.
  • Side effects of medications: trying to have positive coping mechanisms for new symptoms can cause anxiety.
  • Continual medical supervision: some people are not satisfied with long-term medical care.
  • Possible potential for misuse: some individuals may not be ready for continual medication usage.
  • Possible potential for trading one addiction for another.

Risks & Untreated Alcoholism

According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use has led to more than 3.6 million years of potential life lost each year in the US from 2015 to 2019. 

Furthermore, excessive drinking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among adults aged 20 to 49 years of age. Leaving excessive alcohol use untreated can escalate the progression of the disease from mild to severe over time. Subsequently, the longer an individual continues to drink, the effects intensify accordingly, leading to tough, adverse physical and psychological challenges. 

MAT for alcohol addiction is not an option for everyone. Alcohol rehab options must all begin with detox, but because alcohol withdrawal is dangerous, medically supervised detox programs are the safest and most effective. The whole-person approach is successful and can lead to other treatment options. The following considerations are recommendations for the treatment of an alcohol use disorder. 

  • Medically-supervised detox
  • Medication-assisted treatment, including behavioral therapy
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Inpatient programs

Explore Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Everyone has unanswered questions when considering what treatment option to utilize. Tennessee Valley Recovery offers extra assurance that can lead to confidence in answering individually pointed questions. The center has many options, making an individual fit more attainable.

Contact Tennessee Valley Recovery today to get answers and choose the treatment options to meet your needs.