Medication used with MAT makes it possible for people in recovery to focus on learning essential coping skills and strategies for handling cravings, negative emotions, stress, and other powerful relapse triggers.
Three medications have been approved by the FDA for use with medication-assisted treatment.
Methadone has been used for many decades to treat opioid addiction. A synthetic opioid, methadone is an opioid agonist, which means that it engages the same brain receptors that heroin and painkillers act on.
However, the effects of methadone are weaker and more gradual than those produced by other opioids. Because methadone has a high potential for abuse, people on methadone maintenance must visit a clinic or doctor’s office for their daily dose.
Buprenorphine has been used with MAT since 2002. A partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine produces the same effects as full agonists, but the effects are much weaker.
It also has a ceiling effect, which means that taking more buprenorphine won’t increase the effects. For this reason, buprenorphine can be prescribed and taken at home.
Naltrexone was approved in 2010 for use with MAT. It’s an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids.
While methadone and buprenorphine can be taken right away upon entering detox, all traces of opioids must be out of the body before beginning naltrexone. Therefore, medical detox will be necessary before starting this medication.