Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) plays a critical role in the treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). When combined with counseling and/or behavioral therapies the potential for long term recovery greatly increases. In terms of the treatment of Opioid Dependence, there are three common medications that are widely prescribed now, Buprenorphine (Suboxone), Methadone and Naltrexone (Vivitrol).
Suboxone prevents withdrawal through a synthetic opiate, Subutex. Subutex functions as a partial agonist to the opiate receptors in the brain and prevents withdrawal by releasing a small to moderate dosage of opiate into the blood stream. It also contains an opiate blocker known as Naltrexone. Naltrexone is an antagonist to opioid receptors and blocks the user from feeling the effects of opioids, even if opioids are used after administering Suboxone. This aspect is critical to relapse prevention in recovery. These medications can be administered through a variety of forms, including: a pill, a film, and in a liquid. In the case of Naltrexone, it can also be administered by injection, which is known as Vivitrol.
Methadone is another synthetic opiate, and historically more common among Medication Assisted Treatment. It was originally designed to only treat long-term opiate addiction, but it is now more frequently prescribed to clients of varying degrees of substance abuse. Methadone seems to be most effective in treating clients whose brain chemistry may be permanently altered due to long-term and heavy opiate use. In these cases, the need to receive outside assistance in delivering dopamine to the brain makes methadone a popular and effective choice. Methadone is most commonly administered in pill or liquid form.
Narcan is often used to treat opiate overdose. It works by knocking out opiates that have bonded to opiate receptors in the brain. It should be administered immediately after an overdose, and a second dose may be given if the person is unresponsive to the first. The effects are typically immediate and will last from 30-90 minutes. It is vital to have Narcan on hand when treating opioid abuse/dependence. Those who struggle with opiate use disorder are especially vulnerable for overdose after detoxing and relapsing. Police often carry Narcan, and it can be prescribed by a doctor or obtained at some needle exchange locations for free. Narcan can be given by a nasal spray or intramuscular injection.
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