Medication-assisted treatment is the use of anti-craving medicine such as Vivitrol or Suboxone — along with comprehensive therapy and support — to help address issues related to opioid dependence, including withdrawal, cravings, and relapse prevention. Evidenced-based treatment approaches like this are often needed to successfully overcome addiction and maintain long-term recovery.
Medication-assisted treatment can help a person overcome an opioid addiction.
Most experienced treatment professionals as well as the latest research tell us that with strong motivation, a good support system, and a treatment program that includes medication, psychiatric care, and social support, there is tremendous hope for recovery and a life free from drugs.
Many people, including teens and young adults, first use opioids when they are prescribed following an injury or routine procedure like the removal of wisdom teeth. Common prescription opioids include Codeine (for example, Tylenol with Codeine), Fentanyl, Hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lorcet), Morphine and Oxycodone (Percocet or OxyContin).
For a variety of reasons — to party and get high, or to cope with stress — some people, especially teens and young adults, intentionally misuse opioids. The vast majority of those misusing prescription drugs are getting them from the medicine cabinets of friends, family, and acquaintances. Some young people start misusing prescription opioids and then switch to heroin as it becomes cheaper or easier to acquire.
Mature and older adults often unwittingly develop a dependence on opioid-based pain medications.
Opioid use and misuse can create brain changes that lead to addiction. A person who is addicted develops an overpowering urge, or craving, for the drug. The person also experiences a loss of control, making it more difficult to refuse the drug, even when use becomes harmful. Most people who are addicted to opioids cannot reduce or stop usage without help.
Family members, friends, and loved ones often think, “Why can’t you just stop?” Doctors and counselors specializing in addiction treatment understand that it’s not that simple.
When people become dependent on opioids, they feel sick when there are no opioids in the body. This sickness is known as withdrawal. Along with intense cravings, withdrawal is a hallmark of opioid addiction, and the two combined can make recovery especially difficult.
By helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal, medication-assisted treatment can restore the ability to focus on a return to a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to tailoring medications to address cravings and withdrawal, a comprehensive treatment approach will also include therapy or counseling to address behavioral issues, support recovery, and prevent relapse. Family therapy is especially effective for couples and young adults to address substance use along with other issues.
Some people in treatment programs for addiction, or those who are seeking help through a 12-step program, may be told that medication-assisted treatment is simply substituting one addictive drug for another.
This is not true.
Taking medication for opioid addiction is like taking medication for any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or asthma. When it is used according to the doctor’s instructions, the medication will not create a new addiction.
Deciding to seek help can be a very difficult, and in some ways frightening, process. We want to help make this important step you are about to take positive and affirming.