Medication-Assisted Treatment Statistics

Medication-assisted treatment has become one of the most common and effective methods for treating opioid addiction. These treatment programs offer effective forms of harm reduction, mental health services, behavioral therapies, and substance abuse detoxing, treatment, and counseling. MAT is an evidence-based, successful option to help reduce the increasing rise in substance abuse related deaths, complications, overdose, criminal activity, and the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Even in cases of severe opioid dependence disorder, MAT has shown to be effective in freeing patients from their addiction to heroin, opiates, and benzodiazepines – especially in cases where treatment may be difficult to engage.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

In the United States, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the combined effort of certain medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to provide holistic care for those suffering from substance abuse disorder. As more research is being performed, results continue to show that the combination of such treatment programs successfully treat opioid use disorder, substance addiction, underlying mental health issues, and enable the patient to remain on a faithful road to a sustained recovery.

MAT is primarily pursued in the United States strictly as a treatment program for opioid addiction. MAT programs seek to treat those who have developed a dependency on heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opiate based drugs. The medications used in this form of treatment help regulate brain activity, body function, and physiological cravings; prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation, and aid in blocking the euphoric effects of the abused drugs. Each of these medications are approved by the FDA and CDC. These programs are clinically driven and are utilized to meet the unique and specific needs of each patient in the program. If you are being treated for anxiety or depression, ensure your practicing doctor is aware of these medications before enrolling in an MAT program: the combination of MAT drugs and anxiety meds can be fatal.

How Does MAT Work?

Medicine-assisted treatment can work in a number of ways. The most common method is the use of opiates like drugs to combat the brain’s opioid receptors in order to prevent further use of harmful opiates. These medications help prevent life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and opioid dependence. The most common drugs used in this method are Methadone and Buprenorphine.

Another method for treating substance abuse is through opioid antagonists such as Naloxone. Naloxone is a non-opioid drug that blocks the brain’s ability to receive opiates. This can be utilized to prevent relapse so that the patient can no longer experience the effects of the abused drugs. However, if used on its own without prior cessation treatment or detoxing, Naloxone can have negative effects on the patient and lead to harmful withdrawal symptoms.

Freedom Now combines the two methods by administering Suboxone in our treatment program. Suboxone combines buprenorphine and naloxone in order to aid in the detoxing process but utilizes both drugs to curb cravings and prevent relapse.

What Medications are Used in MAT?

The medications used in MAT programs are Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naloxone. These medications treat the addiction to short-term opioids such as heroin, Morphine, OxyContin, and Codeine along with other synthetic opiates like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Treatment with prescribed medications may take months to years depending on the severity of the addiction. Any tapering plans should be discussed with a medical professional.


Methadone is a full-opioid agonist. This means that it affects the brain similarly to the abused medications, but at a much more controlled rate. Methadone is used to reduce cravings and prevent withdrawal.


As with Methadone, Buprenorphine also helps reduce the effects of abused drugs. It is used as an active agent to curb the effects of other opioids and reduce cravings and withdrawal.

The following buprenorphine medications are approved by the FDA to treat OUD:

  • Generic Buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets
  • Suboxone
  • Zubsolv
  • Bunavail
  • Probuphine
  • Sublocade


Naloxone is much different from Methadone and Buprenorphine. Naloxone is used to specifically target the brain’s receptors to prevent any euphoric effects of abused medications. It is commonly combined with Buprenorphine in order to assist in weaning the patient off of abused substances and maintain a sustained recovery.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Evidence Based?

Yes, MAT is an evidence based method for treating substance abuse disorders and mental health related issues. This method has been approved by the FDA and CDC and is currently still being researched.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Effective?

In 2017 more than 2.1 million people were diagnosed with opioid use disorder – over 500,000 of which struggled with heroin addiction. In many cases, people developed an addiction to prescription pain relievers. MAT was developed in order to be an effective method for significantly reducing the rise of opioid addiction and reducing the need for inpatient treatment services for substance abuse. Yet, MAT provides more than just reducing opioid use disorder. MAT programs can provide intensive outpatient treatment options that are tailored to your life-style, your individual addiction needs, and provide comprehensive counseling and mental health related therapies to assist in changing habitual patterns. Treatment is furthered with MAT by providing continued services even when medication use is discontinued.

The effectiveness of MAT is derived in its ability to provide clients with a full recovery, including the ability to provide life-skills training and continued mental illness support. MAT has been proven to aid in:

  • Increased patient survival rates
  • Increased treatment retention and continued care
  • Reduce use of illicit opiates
  • Reduce criminal activity associated with substance use disorders
  • Increase the ability for a functional life apart from opiates
  • Aid in treating underlying mental health disorders
  • Job maintenance
  • Reduce the risk of miscarriages and birth-complications in women who struggle with opioid dependence

Research continues to prove the effectiveness of MAT programs. Research has also shown how MAT can aid in reducing the spread of life-threatening diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Despite the effectiveness of the MAT in fighting substance use disorders, there is a lack of utilization of such programs. According to a study (SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)) the ratio of those addicted to heroin and opioids seeking medical attention for their disorder and receiving treatment plans that integrated some form of medication-assisted treatment was at an all time low since its inception of only 28%! The truth is, there are a lot of misconceptions about MAT programs and how they substitute abused medications with prescribed medications in order to treat substance use. There may also be complications in receiving this form of care as it is still slowly being adopted in the medical field.

However, regardless of misconceptions, MAT has been proven to be an evidence-based treatment plan for those suffering from addiction. If you have any further questions regarding our treatment plans and how we utilize MAT as a part of our clinic’s services, feel free to contact us today.

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