Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roueen RafeyanTreatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of FDA-approved medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to comprehensively treat substance use disorder. MAT can be used for both opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Not everyone is a candidate for MAT. Prior to initiating Medication-Assisted Treatment, the patient is evaluated to determine if MAT is recommended. Factors include medical history, prior treatment experiences and history of medication compliance. If MAT is offered, an individual may decline these services and our team can continue to support them with individual and group counseling to support their recovery.

What are the Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

MAT has been proven to help individuals modify their behavior and encourage positive lifestyle changes for long-term success. While benefits vary based on factors including dependency on opioids, alcohol or other substances, these are some common ones:

  • Reduces or eliminates cravingsMedication-Assisted Treatment
  • Decreases withdrawal symptoms
  • Significantly reduces the risk of relapse
  • Typically eliminates the need for hospitalization
  • Offered in both Outpatient and Residential Treatment

Some individuals might question whether MAT is substituting one drug for another, which is far from the case. The medications at Gateway Foundation are used as indicated by the FDA, closely monitored for effectiveness and side effects to help alleviate symptoms. Some Medication-Assisted Treatment is used short-term with the minimum effective dose and discontinued when the physician deems it appropriate. Some patients receive MAT over an extended period of time to support their ongoing recovery.


Buprenorphine is a FDA-approved medication that functions as an agonist/antagonist that blocks other narcotics while reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Together with counseling, it is an effective use of medication that treats opioid dependency. Suboxone, a brand name of buprenorphine, is administered daily by dissolving a film under the tongue. Studies have shown that people taking Suboxone tend to demonstrate improved success with non-drug therapies: Managing the physical symptoms for opioid dependency helps patients regain control of their life and concentrate on their counseling and recovery.


Naltrexone is a non-addictive opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of other narcotics. It is approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcohol and opioid dependence in adults. Naltrexone is available in a daily pill or a monthly injection by the brand name Vivitrol. Naltrexone blocks both the euphoric and sedative effects of opiates by binding and blocking opioid receptors. Studies have shown that is reported to reduce cravings. Vivitrol is a long-acting injection administered about once a month by a healthcare professional. Vivitrol works to prevent feelings of pleasure in the brain that are produced by substances, such as prescription painkillers or heroin. Vivitrol also helps reduce a patient’s potential cravings for opioids and is reported to block the effects of opioids for about 28 days.

Medications for Benzodiazepine Dependence

Based on patient needs, Gateway Foundation teams can address alcohol dependency, alcohol withdrawal and withdrawal from benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”), such as Ativan, Librium, Valium and Xanax, with additional medication treatments. Professional clinicians at Gateway Foundation can help those with mild to moderate benzodiazepine dependency stabilize in order to engage in behavioral therapy treatment programs.

Medications for Alcohol Dependence

Treatment for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, calls for a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the patient. Sometimes this approach includes MAT.

For patients with alcohol use disorder, MAT first consists of different treatment options that help them through the initial stages of withdrawal symptoms. Freedom from these symptoms enables people to participate in therapy sooner rather than later.

The ability to medically assist people with alcoholism has brought positive changes for those receiving treatment at Gateway Foundation. One of the biggest changes is the decrease in the ASA rate, when people leave treatment against staff advice. When a person receiving MAT becomes more comfortable and therefore more engaged in the treatment process, they are more likely to successfully complete their program. Research has shown MAT also helps people remain alcohol-free following program completion.

Used as part of an integrated approach to alcohol addiction, along with therapy and counseling, the following medications may be used to promote sustainable recovery:

  • Vivitrol – Prevents feelings of pleasure in the brain associated with substance use.
  • Campral – Assists with cravings by restoring the balance of chemicals in the brain.
  • Librium – Reduces anxiety, insomnia and other withdrawal symptoms.
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