The Stigma of Addiction and Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication Assisted Treatment Defined

Medication assisted treatment, or MAT, is the use of legal drugs in the treatment of addiction. It is usually used to treat opioid dependence, but there are drugs to treat the symptoms of alcoholism as well. In both cases, the drugs are used
facilitate recovery by helping to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction includes drugs like methadone, Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Naloxone. The medications for alcoholism include Antabuse and Campral. These drugs all have one important thing in common. They treat addiction as a disease, by acting directly on the parts of the brain involved in addiction.

Hope in Pill Form for Thousands 

Research asserts that medication assisted treatment is highly effective. It reduces the frequency of relapse and overdose, both during and after treatment. medication assisted treatment has proven especially beneficial in the treatment of long term opioid use. This includes many addicts who had failed to stop using for decades.

And medication assisted treatment could help thousands more, but only if certain obstacles to its use are removed. Some of these obstacles are logistical or economic in nature, namely the cost of the drugs and the dearth of provider outside metropolitan areas.   The first and most difficult obstacles, however, are philosophical ones.

Strangely enough, much of the resistance to medication assisted treatment has come from within the treatment community itself. Many providers believe these drugs violate the principles suggested by the abstinence-12 stop model they’ve used for decades. Unfortunately, this belief runs counter to proven empirical facts. It also dovetails with the stigma attached to addiction in our wider culture.

Medication Assisted Treatment and Stigma

The idea that addiction is a moral issue is not just inaccurate – it’s damaging and often lethal. Only by eliminating this resistance can we as a culture acknowledge what professionals have understood for decades – that addiction is a disease with a physical basis in brain chemistry. Once the internal resistance has faded, the logistical and economic obstacles to medication assisted treatment will begin the disappear as well.