For approximately 50 years, medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction has been part of recovery practices. Despite its decades of use and success, there is still a stigma surrounding this treatment during recovery. Not only do some believe that individuals are no fully-recovered, but they believe that could lead to the need for a separate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) 12-step program. According to a paper published by PEW Charitable Trusts, the most effective intervention for heroin addiction is the combination of MAT and behavioral therapies. ALEF Reidsville, a CleanStart company, provides thorough addiction treatment based around medication-assisted treatment.
Defining Medication-Assisted Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Before analyzing the stigma surrounding medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction, we must first define MAT. When those in recovery receive medications and behavioral therapies simultaneously, then they are receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse.
The combination of the approved medication and therapy offers a “whole patient” approach to their recovery and treatment. Medication-assisted treatment‘s primary use is for those who are recovering from opioid use disorder, including heroin. The benefits of using MAT include that it:
- Helps relieve pain that often accompanies withdrawal symptoms
- Normalizes the brain’s chemistry
- Blocks an opioid’s euphoric effects
- Relieves psychological cravings
- Normalizes the body’s functioning
Problems Accessing MAT
Even though Medicaid payments for MAT nearly tripled between 2011 and 2017, that does not mean it is easily accessible. That is one of the biggest stigmas regarding medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction. According to an executive briefing by OPEN MINDS reveals that, out of all the heroin users, only 60% of them have access to MAT. We learn from the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) that only eight percent of addiction treatment facilities use MAT.
Trading One Addiction for Another
Stigma surrounds the medications used for medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction. The main reason is that two out of the three medications contain a small percentage of opiates. These medications all have FDA approval and include Buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone.
The FDA approval is not enough for some because they believe, due to the small percentage of opiates, those undergoing this treatment are merely trading one addiction for another. Even though many believe that those participating in an MAT program are not undergoing “real” recovery, that is not the case.
The Risk of Developing a Dependence
Another stigma is that, when people are undergoing medication-assisted treatment for heroin, they develop a dependence on the medication. Sometimes these medications must be in use for several months or several years.
However, there is a significant difference between developing dependence and suffering from addiction. Dependence on medication is psychological, whereby those in recovery develop a physical tolerance for the medication. However, those who are addicted to heroin suffer from a disease in the patient’s brain.
Many rehabilitation centers are shifting their thinking regarding medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction. The main reason is that Americans continue to see an opioid epidemic, and, throughout that, MAT’s success is becoming pronounced.
According to Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the FDA’s Commissioner, the stigmas surrounding the use of these medications must discontinue because it is critical to breaking the cycle of dependence. Experts like Gottlieb believe that it is possible to achieve a full recovery as these medications manage a patient’s craving, illness, and withdrawal symptoms.
Are you or someone that you love suffering from heroin addiction and want to find a solution? Do you believe that medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction might help, but you still have questions? No one should have to experience their worries or have unanswered questions regarding their struggles. Contact ALEF Reidsville at 833.916.0562 to receive answers to your questions and learn how we can help.