Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) has long been a viable avenue of care for eligible patients seeking ongoing relief from long-term opioid and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For years, methadone was the prevailing standard in medication-assisted therapy; however, over the past few decades, other drugs like Suboxone® and Vivitrol® have emerged as, according to many, less risky alternatives. The reality is, however, that all maintenance drugs come with their share of risks for addiction and it’s important to have a plan in place if you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms and heightened vulnerability to relapse. In an effort to prevent trading one addiction for another, here are some tips for safe and effective medication-assisted therapy.
Assess Your Eligibility
Work closely with your doctor or treatment provider to determine if medication-assisted therapy is right for you. Initial screening or intake procedures determine an applicant’s eligibility and readiness for medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction and admission to an opioid treatment program. Ongoing assessment should begin as soon as a patient is admitted to a treatment program.
Communication Is Key
If you experience any adverse effects or withdrawal symptoms during the medication-assisted therapy process, it’s critical that you quickly and thoroughly articulate them to your prescribing physician. Your physician will act accordingly, either adjusting your dosage or start the process of tapering off medication.
Trust Your Doctor
Do not attempt to cease or adjust your dosage without first consulting your prescribing physician. Any deviation from regimen can create serious changes in biology and lead to withdrawal symptoms. At some point symptoms will decrease and patients can start slowing getting weaned off their medication. It’s also important to realize that medication-assisted therapy is not meant to supplant or substitute any part of treatment. It should be administered along with detox and rehab as part of a comprehensive overall treatment program.