Medication assisted treatment has proven to be an effective path to sobriety for some people. This path may not be for everyone depending on their individual traits and addiction, so it’s important to learn more about it and work with a professional.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at medication assisted treatment as a path to sobriety.
Medication Assisted Treatment
The history of medicine is rich and long – but it is only relatively recently that we’ve begun to explore medication for addiction, an issue that first became relevant and studied through medicine itself.
Methadone, a household name among prescription drugs and one of the best ways at chemically fighting the effects of heroin and other opioids, has been around for about 80 years, starting off as a synthetic opioid. Yet its history as a treatment for opioid addiction only began in the early 1950s.
Today, there is still debate around whether medication is a valid way to fight addiction or just a pathway for addictions to migrate from one substance to another with little difference.
Here’s what you need to know about medication assisted treatment.
Sobriety is More Than Abstinence
Many argue that medication-based treatment, or medication-assisted treatment, is ineffective and useless for anyone struggling with addiction because it ultimately only replaces one drug with another – creating a new dependence, making the problem only worse.
This isn’t actually the case. Achieving sobriety is about more than strict abstinence from anything that might intoxicate you or affect you psychologically. It’s about beating addiction. Coffee affects the way you think, and even feel – yet a coffee addiction will never be as serious as dependence on opioids.
Methadone can lead to addiction – but it is first and foremost a tool to defeat addiction, and when used responsibly under the administration of a professional, it can be used to effectively stop someone’s opioid use for the long-term.
How Medication-Assisted Treatment Works
Most addiction medications work on the basis of suppressing the urge to take a certain drug, while simultaneously dulling its effects, in order to force the brain to wean itself off the drug by taking away what effectively makes it addictive, neutering its ability to influence you.
Opioid treatment drugs, for example, either replace the drug by eliminating the high and preventing withdrawal (like methadone) or entirely suppressing its effects (like buprenorphine). Certain alcohol addiction medication – like naltrexone – works the same way, blocking alcohol’s effects on the brain and blocking the feeling of intoxication.
Medication-based treatment is only meant to be a temporary solution to addiction – it is not meant to last forever, and instead provides an answer where many other options give none. It’s fast-acting, and creates an immediate difference in a patient’s brain chemistry, even if they still have to take the steps necessary to make those changes permanent and naturally-occurring.
Medication with Counseling
Medication alone is never enough when it comes to dealing with addiction – and in the United States, it’s not even legal to prescribe a patient medication for their addiction without receiving some form of counseling. Treatments for substance use disorders are varied and plentiful because addiction is ultimately a unique issue in every patient.
While there are many identifiable factors leading to addiction, and many symptoms related to the condition, the way they manifest in people makes it impossible to choose a single optimal treatment method – addiction treatment requires individualization. Therefore, medication alone can’t do the trick – while it may help wean someone off an opioid, or another drug, there are other factors to take into consideration such as emotional trauma, post-acute withdrawal symptoms, mood swings, and more.
There are several different psychological therapies capable of helping those struggling with addiction better to cope without drugs. Examples include:
Originally a tool used to primarily help treat depression, cognitive behavioral therapy deals with addiction, anxiety, psychosis, and other issues as well. CBT works on the idea that thoughts, emotions, and behavior are linked, and that by working on your thoughts, you can change your emotions – and your behavior.
Family Behavioral Therapy
Family behavioral therapy (FBT) involves having at least one member of your family – a spouse, parent, or another significantly close person – join you in therapy sessions and learn alongside you how to better cope with addiction, and acquire new skills in dealing with various issues that may and do come up.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy is designed to encourage and motivate change in a person’s behavior, bringing them to push themselves to change in cases where a person is ambivalent or simply uncaring and apathetic towards beating their addiction. This therapy is best combined with another type of therapy to create a comprehensive treatment, wherein someone struggling with addiction isn’t only more motivated to seek therapy, but can also do so.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
One of the more common therapies utilized due to its success with addiction, DBT is a branch of psychotherapy and is like CBT yet with various modifications. It began specifically to treat personality disorders but has also found clinical success to help treat addiction. DBT utilizes dialectics in therapy – this is the idea that opposing forces can be brought together to find balance, and that coping with a problem isn’t just about forcing circumstances to change, but also about learning to accept some things the way they are.
Therapies help people learn how to live their lives to the fullest, regardless of what they’re dealing with. Addiction can be hard to cope with, but what makes it so hard isn’t just the dependence on alcohol or drugs, but all the underlying reasons behind that dependence, and the problems that arose because of it. Mental health issues are often coupled with addiction both due to how common self-medication can be, and due to how the addiction can create an unpleasant life, and lead to mood disorders and other related issues. While medication can help with both the physical and psychological consequences of addiction, it’s important to address the root cause, whatever it may be in any individual case.
Getting Treatment Through Outpatient Programs
Medication-based treatment isn’t easily gotten – methadone, suboxone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine are all prescription drugs, not gotten over-the-counter, but through a physician. However, there are many ways for those who need treatment to be able to find it, and medication-based treatment is essential for a functioning healthcare system.
Outpatient programs will help you make sure you get the medication you need after rehab is over, so you can continue your recovery process on the right track and create a maintainable schedule for your treatment outside of the residence and in your own life. Coping with addiction is about more than just making it through the first few months, it’s about easing into a lifestyle that will keep you both happy and sober.
No case of addiction is beaten easily, especially cases where medication is warranted. But every battle against addiction is winnable. All you must do is not give up on sobriety.